Thursday, September 27, 2012

F1 Singtel Singapore Grand Prix - Day 1

Friday was, of course, the first day of the Formula One Singtel Singapore Grand Prix. This was one of the main 'pins in the schedule' for my trip to Singapore and I'd booked tickets many months ago, paying about £90 for a 3-day walkabout in Zone 4. This zone is the biggest and contains turns 7 through 17, plus the Padang stage zone where most of the big acts were playing.

Even though I was there for the whole 3 days, I still didn't get to explore all of Zone 4 and therefore I think it's great value and you really don't need any more of a ticket! It also gave me the chance to explore viewing the race from viewing areas all over that end of the circuit. Bleachers (raised, stepped standing areas) were provided in a number of locations, the only advantage being that you had to stand and there weren't many TVs provided for these locations.

When I arrived in Singapore, I had no-one to go and watch it with so I put a note in the reception of the Hostel and this landed me Rob, an Irish civil engineer working out in Australia at a mine, to accompany me on the Friday. We went early to get through the gate as soon as it opened at 14:30, having had lunch at the Mayanmar canteen again and an interesting conversation about both UAVs and mining.

Upon entering, the first thing we encountered was an F1 simulator which had just opened; we were 4th and 5th in the queue. The simulators and computers kept breaking down so it took about 15 minutes per person, and the queue outside was at least 30 people long before much time had elapsed! Thankfully we got in early!

I was absolutely useless in the simulator. The graphics weren't good enough, and the viewpoint was way too low, to see any of the turns before it was too late to react. Craig would have done much, much better than me!

So we wandered round after this and came across the classic car display, later to be used for the drivers' parade lap (though I didn't know this at the time and wondered for some time why some of the cars had large stickers on with a driver's name. Were they who the cars belonged to? If so, why had they shipped them all the way to Singapore?!

Then, looking across the bay towards the boat atop Marina Bay Sands, it became obvious that a rain shower was very, very imminent... we sheltered under one of the Durian theatres in the Esplanade while Ferraris (part of the Ferrari cup) crashed into the barriers and their practice session was well and truly suspended!

With the air quite humid (about 70%) at about 32 degrees, the rain and accompanying cold breeze was very welcome!

On my request, we then journeyed over to Turn 16 and 17, where there was a small bleacher for Walkabout ticket holders, very close to the track, and best of all with a TV on the other side of the track which was actually for those in the grandstand next to us. Looking at the map, I suspected that this would be a good niche from which to watch the race, and was happy with my choice!

Before long, the GP2 cars came out (though an inexperienced eye like mine would really struggle to tell the difference between them and F1 cars) and proceeded with their first practice. The sound was quite incredible and I am very glad that, as well as earplugs, I had brought my MP3/radio player and in-ear earphones, which enabled me to hear the commentary very clearly while blocking out a good deal of the roar of the 4L V8s. Learn more about the series here: 

Rob left me at this point to continue his exploration of the circuit, since he was a Premier Walkabout ticket holder and could visit Zones 1-3 as well as Zone 4. I also wandered elsewhere to watch Practice Session 1 but it wasn't quite as good. Much more quantity than quality and you could only see the cars accelerating down the DRS straight, rather than the braking, turns and acceleration of Turns 16 and 17.

So I got a bite to eat (Satay - very tasty!) and went back to watch P1 from my now-favourite spot:
First view of the Williams team which I will be supporting!

Once this was over, I started to immerse myself in the musical acts for which the Singapore Grand Prix is famous. First up was a British violin duet (doesn't sound very exciting) who, playing crystal violins and covering awesome songs such as The Chain, Beat It and Glorious, were an awesome show indeed!

Then I briefly caught the daily light show (the one I'd seen from the top of the boat the previous day) from a new viewpoint: 

Before going to the next stage and waiting for another act to come on. Here there was another big screen and we saw our first crash of a GP2 car at Turn 18...

And then Tom Thum came on all the way from Australia. This beatboxer-come-livelooper was very good fun and knew how to work a crowd. I won't try and explain his music myself, but direct you to his channel and just explain that he is clearly heavily inspired by Beardyman, another chap who I am a big fan of...

By now the creepy marionette had started twitching inexplicably... I walked briskly past and found a new place to watch the P2 from.

But I couldn't configure my camera to take particularly good photos in the comparatively low light, especially given the high speed of the cars. Luckily I found an innovative solution!

But I didn't stay here for long and, not being a fan of Jay Chou, I headed back to the Hostel at about 11pm to preserve my energy for the following two days. But first, here's the view of the Padang area and main stage:
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