In 2013 I went to two Formula One Grands Prix, the first being Melbourne and the second being Singapore. Both were totally different in all aspects but mostly because Singapore is raced in the dark under the lights of the city and Melbourne is raced around a park in the middle of the day. Going to a Formula One meeting is not a cheap activity and it is certainly not something your average backpacker would do. So how did I end up at my second Grand Prix of the year when I have never been before this year? Simple: my boyfriend is a motorsport fanatic and I have been bought up my whole life surrounded by a motorsport loving Dad.
I remember walking along the South Melbourne beach in deep discussion with JP about the timing of us being in Singapore and how we would be missing the F1 by 2 weeks. Somehow I then found myself saying that we should change our flights around and be there for the F1. After all, there is nothing better than being in a city while it hosts a huge event. I think my decision may have been swung by the fact The Killers and Rihanna were playing there too. At S$300 or £144 it certainly was not cheap but with three days of action packed fun it seemed worthwhile.
Fast forward to the 20th of September and we are boarding a flight from Thailand to Singapore, not wanting to leave the beach but desperate to see if the weekend lives up to the hype. The humidity hits us as we walked out of the airport and my mind flashes back to a previous Singapore race I remember watching at home: Jenson Button talks about wearing an ice cold cooling vest before the race begins – I remember thinking that was a bit extreme but suddenly I understand why. We find ourselves in a friendly but smelly hostel booked because it is the perfect location for our weekend of racing. We pick up our tickets from the top floor of a shopping centre and then it’s a waiting game until the gates open at 3pm.
With our tickets we had access to zones 3 and 4 but not 1 or 2 – so unlike Melbourne there were no pit lane views but I really didn’t feel like I was missing out on much. Zone 4 was where the main stage and food stalls were – that was enough of the action for me. We were sitting in the bay grandstand which had amazing views of the city and Marina Bay Sands hotel – I couldn’t stop thinking about the fact we would be staying there on Monday night! We did a lot of wandering around on that first day, checking out all the spots and desperately trying to stay hydrated. Before practice two started we grabbed some food from zone 4. Everything was priced around the same at s$10 and everything we tried over the weekend was good.
As the city turned to dusk and then dark the magic started to come alive, the race track lit up below the dazzling sky line. Catching the light show from the Marina Bay Sands I was mesmerised by it all. There were several smaller stages dotted around the track and as we found the waterfront stage we realised we were just in time for a performance by Laura Mvula – I had never heard of her but apparently she was big in the UK. Sitting down I didn’t know what to expect but she was exceptional even when the power failed on her three or four times! With more racing after that, the night seemed to last forever but my, what a start to this weekend.
The great thing about the Singapore F1 is you have a few hours to explore the city every morning before the gates open and race action begins around 4 pm. Admittedly the heat gets to you within an hour of being outside and most of our free time was spent hiding in yet another shopping mall. Singapore seems to be made up of more shopping malls and hotels than any other city – well expect maybe Las Vegas. However we did manage to find ourselves a park to chill in on the second day.
As day two of the Grand Prix began we went straight for our grandstand to watch the GP2 race. I knew nothing about the drivers and the cars looked so different but I thoroughly enjoyed it. Listening to the commentary on my iPod radio I was able to keep up with the race when it wasn’t in front of us. Between the action we headed down to the water’s edge and just sat in the shade drinking in this wonderful city. Again I plugged my iPod radio in for the next race – it was a good way to drown out some of the atrocious noise these cars make.
The evening went much the same as the night before, getting food in zone 4, watching some of the shows in the Panang field and the light show from the Marina Bay Sands hotel. Next up was qualifying and unlike Melbourne there was no rain to cancel the action. With so many people eager to get to their seats the action had already started when we finally made it to ours. It was exciting watching the action unfold in front of our eyes but there were no surprises when Vettel took pole. As soon as we knew the result we headed for the stage area to get ready for the Killers. The field was sectioned off and we ended up in the back half with a massive screen in front of us but I wasn’t bothered about getting closer. They were amazing as always and despite the crowd being fairly quiet compared to normal shows they really didn’t seem put off. By the time we got out of there and made it back to the hostel it was 2am!
The final day: RACE DAY. By the third day the whole thing was beginning to feel like a festival, with a whole field for chilling out and so much more action than just the race. I certainly felt like my ticket was worth every penny. The atmosphere was electric and the crowds even thicker for the big day. I was also struggling with the heat by this point, feeling very lethargic and sick but I was determined that wouldn’t ruin the last day. I was turning my map in to a handmade fan and buying water when I wanted, not when I needed it. We spent most of our day in the bay grandstand watching all the action until the F1 race itself.
The race started off slow, but at one point I didn’t know where to look because there was so much going on in front of us. It was an incredible race by the end – which was a bonus given that some races this year have been very boring. As soon as the race finished fireworks went off right in front of our eyes, lighting up the sky as they bounced over the water. It really was spectacular.
With the fireworks over we headed to the stage for one last time, Rihanna was closing the night and I couldn’t have been more excited. Having learnt from the previous night we headed to the closer entrance and found ourselves with plenty of space to sit and chill out while we waited. In style she was late on and opened with several new songs which the crowd didn’t seem to know. The lack of noise and cheering from the crowd seemed to affect her performance. When she started doing snippets from songs instead of the whole thing I began to reconsider how good she was. The last part of her performance was certainly better and I was glad we stayed for the end.
As we left the crew of helpers were lined up high fiving everyone and just being the happiest, most fun people ever. It was so infectious and made for a great leaving atmosphere and memory. We walked via the race track as we headed to bed after the final night of our Singapore F1 experience. And what an experience it was: not just a race, but a festival weekend.