The Night Race A Decade On
The unique Singapore Grand Prix, now nearly ten years old, continues to bring in global audiences and remains one of the most exciting events on the F1 calendar
Ask a F1 fan for the most recognisable race and you’ll get two answers: there’s Monaco, with the tight street circuit bringing cars to a near-standstill as they swivel around, hairpin after hairpin, with super-yachts parked in the background. The race is so old, running since 1929, it predates the World Championships. And then there’s Singapore: the young but iconic night race. The inky black circuit ablaze with floodlights, cars race in saturated colour against a silhouetted world.
Today the concept of a night race is so popular it seems obvious. But back in 2008, when Singapore first held the inaugural night race, the concept was so foreign it seemed risqué. Doubters suggested the lights might fail or rain might bring the race to a halt. But then the lights went up, the first practice session began, and the theatrical qualities were immediately obvious.
TV audiences witnessed the full cinematic effect and the 300,000 on-site spectators partied after dark in what turned out to be one of the most thrilling and controversial races in F1 history. McLaren’s then-chief executive Ron Dennis called it a “big step in the history of Grand Prix racing”. Three-time world champion Sir Jackie Stewart said the race was such a triumph it put a new gloss on the motorsport series.
Fast-forward 10 years and Singapore is now a highlight on the F1 calendar. The ultra-high speeds combined with manic turns leads to a thrilling battle. It’s what you get when you create a track solely for F1 adrenaline. Lewis Hamilton calls it “my kind of track”.
Investments in the fan experience have also turned Singapore into a festival as much it is as a race, attracting fans from all corners of the globe to the heart of downtown Singapore for 3 nights of lavish dining and partying to the likes of Queen + Adam Lambert, Bon Jovi, and Rihanna.
Then there’s a serious side to Singapore too. The city-state has carved out a reputation as the world’s most prosperous business hub: the World Economic Forum ranks it as the most open economy, and GDP per capita ranks consistently in the top three year after year. The F1 race doubles up as a chance for executives to meet. The location makes perfect sense: a happy mid-way point for Australian mining executives, Japanese technology bosses, German manufacturers and British investors to meet on neutral ground.
Fusing the party and the networking together is the race itself, one that fans know of as a perennial thriller – and here, Singapore has a few secrets to tell.
The track design is key. The Marina Bay Street Circuit was designed to be complex and fast. It has more turns than any other circuits, necessitating a gruelling five thousand gear changes – half as many as a normal circuit. The braking G-forces stack up to give the drivers a gruelling challenge like no other.
This year’s race should also be more unpredictable than ever. The Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) has tweaked the car design to ramp up speeds and downforce, making tyres wider by 25 per cent and turning the 13-inch rear wheels from 325mm into 405mm monsters. The extra grunt and grip is estimated to drag lap times down by 3 seconds. Bear in mind that this in a sport where shaving off a tenth of a second is an engineering feat.
The result? A race weekend with more variety, more style, and more opportunities to connect with fellow fans and business colleagues than any other and the drivers adore it. Take it from Red Bull Racing’s Daniel Ricciardo: “There is something about night races, which makes them just different. Visibility is still the same, but you just see the sparks that come off the car better and it really is a good atmosphere in Singapore... for concentration it’s really impressive how much you need to stay focused for this race in particular.” Even non-F1 fans come for the unique atmosphere.
This year’s music includes full-length concerts by Duran Duran and OneRepublic, including debut Singapore performances by Ariana Grande, George the Poet, Lianne La Havas, Seal and The Chainsmokers. In just a decade, Singapore has become a destination for fans who want to experience first hand the excess, drama and finesse of this extraordinary night race.
Don’t miss as the Marina Bay Street Circuit lights up once again for the tenth edition of the Formula 1® night race this 15th to 17th September. Book your tickets for the 2017 FORMULA 1 SINGAPORE AIRLINES SINGAPORE GRAND PRIX at www.singaporegp.sg today to experience a Grand Prix weekend like no other.
Editorial credit: Raconteur. First published on 2 May 2017. Edited by Singapore GP
Photos credit: Singapore GP