We had great time in Singapore last year and so we decided to go again for the second race in the Lion City. And I am glad we did so.
There was not that much wrong with organization in 2008 but there were some annoying things especially when it came to food and beverage. Clearly the organizers listened to the feedback because the improvement this year was obvious. But let’s start with basic – the logistic.
It all begins at the airport. I arrived sometime about noon on Friday. In matter of minutes I passed the immigration and picked up the luggage from the belt. The only slight delay was the process of getting the prepaid card for mobile. In Singapore they do record the identity of the SIM card buyer and as a result the whole thing takes about 5 minutes. That includes scanning the passport but also getting the phone set up and running by the friendly staff.
There was significantly less F1 at the airport this time than last year. The arrival hall was all about F1 in 2008, it looked like a normal day in business this year. With no time to waste I moved towards the taxi queue. It looked a bit long at first but with plenty of taxis around I was on my way almost immediately.
We expected a bit more hassle with getting to and from the track. Last year we were a large group traveling around in minibus. This time all we needed was one cab. But on Friday we decided to test the subway + shuttle route. It passed the test, I can highly recommend that. The only thing that could see some improvement are the tickets. The multi-day passes were sold out. The single trip tickets were only available from machines. There were not that many of them and as most of the buyers were tourist who need a while to work out how the machine exactly works the queues were long and moving very slowly. The whole procedure was a bit painful. (And then after journey you also need to return the used ticket to collect the deposit). On the first day we probably spent more time getting the tickets than traveling to our destination. But once we got on the train all was OK. The race tickets clearly marked the station we needed to get to. Right at the station exit there were organizers shouting “F1 gate 1″ and pointing us in the direction of shuttle buses. The longest we had to wait for the bus was about a minute. Top marks. The best part about the shuttle bus is that it brings you very close to the track unlike taxis that have to drop you quite far away.
Leaving the track was easy as well. We aimed for taxis as out post event destination was the city and the party. The walk from gate 1 to nearest taxi stand took about 15 minutes. It was almost impossible to miss with all the people helping with directions. On Friday and Saturday we were sitting in the taxi in no time. On Sunday we spent about 10-15 minutes in the orderly queue. Obviously the F1 surcharge (SGD5.00) motivated the taxi drivers to go and pick up F1 spectators.
Now, back to the venue itself. I can only talk about the area around the Turn 1,2,3 grandstands as that is all I could see. There were some obvious layout changes. The stage was moved back, further from the grandstand closer to the gate. The same happened with some of the merchandise booths. The newly created space close to the grandstands was filled with bars. This made the food and drinks much more accessible than last year. And as there were more outlets the queues were shorter, one did not have to plan 2 hours ahead when thinking how many drinks or how much food to buy to avoid lining up again. The whole set up combined with the fact that all was happening late in the evening made the waiting time between FP1 and FP2 or FP3 and qualifying a very pleasant experience. Here are few pictures (click on thumbnails to enlarge):
There was always something happening at the stage. For me the worst part was accidentally ending up at Backstreet Boys concert for a minute or two , the best was the performance by Strange Fruit – a group of performers swinging around on 4 meters tall flexible poles (I believe there must be some videos somewhere on YouTube). Different people have different tastes and different tastes were served. I think the organizers have done a great job here. The F1 tickets are not cheap, especially in Singapore, but the effort to provide value in return is obvious in Singapore (see the program highlights here).
It was also great to see rather full grandstands. I heard on Kangaroo TV that the organizers failed to sell only about 6,000 tickets. The grandstands at turns 1,2 and 3 were pretty full except the seats at at and towards the corner between the Turn 1 and Turn 2 grandstands. I think those are the worst seats at that rather expensive area, perhaps that is the reason for them to remain empty…
We may argue if the race itself was exciting or boring. We had the safety car, we had Mark Webber hitting the barrier, we had cars falling apart, we had Nico Rosberg throwing possible podium away. On the other hand we also had very little on track overtaking and Lewis Hamilton running away with the race. I have no idea how the race looks on TV. But live it is one of the best races to visit.