Saturday, 16 August 2008

F1 Circus

Checkered FlagSingapore hosts a round of the 2008 F1 GP Championship on the 26th September. The backstory is that Malaysia built a new F1 circuit, Sepang F1, a few miles north of K.L. and hosted its first F1 race in 1999. Its one claim to fame is that is the only circuit with the protected trademark "F1" in the name. Sepang is the place name (of the former swamp).

Singapore is never out-gunned within its local region and as a matter of prestige and income, decided to have an F1 race. The crushing lack of land space forced it to be a street circuit (like Monaco and Montreal) around the Marina Bay roads. Singapore last ran an F1 race back in 1973; this 61-lap race is one of only three anti-clockwise circuits on the current tour and uniquely, the first F1 race run at night under floodlights.

The circuit is downtown and actually runs underneath the bay grandstand that hosted the NDP-08 show. The cheapest ticket for the Bay Grandstand was S$248 (£93), although this prime location is sold out. The official website is showing 92% of tickets sold at the beginning of June and 93% sold at the current time.

The initial flurry of activity (and perhaps enthusiasm) have waned somewhat. The inevitable feeding frenzy and blatant profiteering of hotels with over-looking rooms has settled a little and overall, the Times ran a piece in June about the continued availability of rooms for the event. SingTel quickly snapped up the prime sponsorship prize and have their own fancy website including a competition to select the grid girls.

I've attended a GP race, actually at the Sepang circuit, and while it was an interesting and memorable experience, I have no desire to repeat it. First, you medically require ear plugs to avoid hearing damage. Second, a static track-side view is the worst as you see each car for 4secs out of every 50secs. You need a portable TV to get the live overview or at least a radio with headphones. Malaysia in August was also Hot, +35degC and despite a hat and even a sarong as sunscreen, I was sunburnt through the material. It was also crowded with congested roads and amateur arm-wavers hired for the day to impose leadership on tired and irritable visitors.

So I have to balance nationalistic oneupmanship, greedy hoteliers, girl-next-door beauty pageants, deafening noise, the £100 a head cost and the inevitable overcrowding against seeing that Hamilton chap do amazing things. Hmmm, nah, I'll catch the result the following day on the RSS news feeds thankyouverymuch.