Tuesday, October 07, 2008

The GRAND ex-'PRIX'-ence!

It just was one of those moments..when I read that the first F1 night race was to be held in Singapore, I immediately made up my mind to go and watch it. People tried to dissuade me saying, “The cars would go past in a second…what could you possibly see?” and "Why do you want to see these cars which keep on going around in circles?" Well, it’s really difficult to answer these kinds of questions especially to the same ‘knowledgable’people who later on ask questions like “Is ‘Shoe-maker’ still racing?” and “Is Murali Karthik driving for Kingfisher*”. After resisting myself from responding violently to these questions, I moved on…..as nothing could change my mind and finally with big holes in all my pockets, I was on my way to Singapore.

From the moment I landed at Changi airport, it was obvious that this city had

been possessed by the F1 spirit. Hoardings, banners, advertisements, discounts if you showed

up with your F1 ticket and so on were all over the place. One could sense a palpable

national pride involved here; a pride in showcasing a world class city – the perfect stage for

hosting a first of its kind event.

Clarke Quay by night

Although perfect in every way to suit European television viewers, the challenge of setting

Singapore up for a night race was something the authorities certainly overcame and

how! Each and every aspect of the city – its roads, its bus network, the underground train

service, the restaurants – everything was geared up to handle this rush of nearly

120,000 people during these three days. And nothing at all seemed like a last minute

preparation – it simply looked like the culmination of something perfectly pre planned years

ago with everything falling right into place.

At the venue (note the pass hanging around my neck :) LOL! ) and below,

The Old Supreme Court Building.

The first thing I did in Singapore was to collect my tickets from the F1 office – they came in a

cool sleek black case with glossy slick plastic bar coded cards neatly tucked inside. I suddenly

felt after seeing these ├╝ber cool tickets that almost having to sell off my right kidney in the

black market to pay for these tickets was worth it after all! I mean look at the silly paper

tickets we get for our cricket matches and look at these F1 passes....these were

beautiful…! (sigh) Coming back to reality…I spent the rest of the day meandering through the

streets of Singapore….Everyone around seemed to be in the F1 mode. Once at the circuit,

much like Monaco, it was difficult to imagine that this circuit too was actually a part of the

city…and mind you, not some far flung suburb but the heart of the city.

Giancarlo Fisichella in his Force India and below Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen appears to be staring right into the camera!

The facilities at the venue – the entry, the security checks, the seating – everything went off

smoothly. And what’s more, we had clear TV screens right in front of our seats across the

track with speakers which blared out live commentary. The more I saw the immaculate micro

management of the arrangements, the more difficult it got for me to imagine an

Indian Grand Prix anytime in the near future. The circuit park was dotted with numerous

merchandise shops and many food outlets serving Thai, Indian, Indonesian, Korean cuisines and

of course Singapore’s most famous Tiger Beer!

The view from my seats....the cars slowly turn in and the blast off towards turn 10. (Below) An absolutely crazy Japanese Ferrari fan

It was not just formula one that was on show here; there was a whole bunch of support races – The Porsche Carrera Asia Cup, The Aston Martin Cup and Formula BMW Asia Series. To go with the on track excitement, there were a whole range of musical performances which were played out live during the breaks .

David Coulthard in his super sleek Red Bull and below, The most beautiful beast on track..The Safety Car

Friday practice and Saturday qualifying gave us photo-buffs enough photo ops, but it was the Sunday race that we had all come here to watch and we weren’t disappointed (the results are for you to see - all pics posted here have been shot by me!). Fuelled with delicious southeast Asian food and having downed a couple of Tiger beers (Sorry Mr. Mallya) watching the race under lights was an absolutely surreal experience, with cars zooming past, the smell of burning rubber wafting through the air, the ear drum shattering scream of the beastly engines, the gorgeous Singapore nightscape around and the stars above – I realized I was at a place where history was being created.

Nick Heidfeld overtakes Sebastian Bourdais and below, McLaren's Lewis Hamilton

While the race itself was expectedly punctuated by a couple of safety car periods,

Renault’s out of the box thinking ensured Alonso leapfrogged the rest to secure a comfortable

win. Ferrari’s collective clumsiness ensured that they had a forgettable race. A few laps saw

Force India’s Giancarlo Fisichella bravely hold off a host of drivers behind as he held P2 for a

while. I was the only one cheering each time Fisichella passed by the stand where I was; but

after pitting he too fell to the wayside and finally as street circuits have in the

past, Singapore too threw up a few surprises on the podium with Nico Rosberg claiming

second place.

Toyota's Timo Glock (My favourite pic) and the race Winner (below) - Fernando Alonso (Renault)

The whole journey had certainly been a thoroughly enjoyable one. All in all, Singapore is easily the best Grand Prix to attend from India (Sepang doesn’t even come close to a thrill of a street circuit). While it may not be the cheapest, it certainly has a lot to offer.

With a race marshal , after the race and (below) Riding over the kerbs at turn 5 (literally)!!

The meticulous arrangements, the beautiful lighting, the drama, the safety car trips, the crashes, the heart breaks and of course the unique language –‘Singlish’ made it an unforgettable experience!

*The question, I am guessing was meant to be “Is Narain Karthikeyan driving for Force India F1?”

PS: Special thanks to my friends Aditya Naik, Amit Masurkar, Aditya Pandit and Medha Naik for making this trip a special one.

For higher resolution images, visit : http://picasaweb.google.co.in/akshaygn/Singapore2008?authkey=uRTzcuOlC0A#

No image or any part of this article may be reproduced or quoted. © 2008 Akshay Gopinathan Nair.


Anonymous said...

The pics are fab and you sure seemed to have a lot of fun..money well spent..damn good !

Rima said...

lucky you ! long awaited for sure..damn good pics..

Kaumudi said...

Damn cool AK!!! :)

S'pore is anyways a pretty place to be! it must have been heavenly then!


Savaari said...

Clarke Quay by night so wonderful picture. I like this pic very much.

akshay said...

Hi Akshay,
I read through all your blogs
Really nice n interesting
Even my names Akshay Gopinath nair