Feature

F1 preview: Mercedes rivalry, J-Lo, Singapore Girls and more

By Zaki JufriEvents - 16 September 2014 1:10 PM | Updated 4:21 PM

F1 preview: Mercedes rivalry, J-Lo, Singapore Girls and more

In Singapore, 2014 is the year of sports.

The new National Stadium opened at the sparkling Singapore Sports Hub with the inaugural rugby World Club 10s played out in June. And following that came Italian football legends Juventus FC, who took on a selection of Singapore’s best players in August.

In October, Singapore will play host to the BNP Paribas Women's Tennis Association (WTA) Finals, with four-time and defending champion Serena Williams, as well as Martina Navratilova and Tracy Austin among the many players coming.

””
SingTel's red-clad grid girls will be replaced by SIA's Singapore Girls in their trademark kebayas this year. Photo: AFP

But before Williams take centre court, Singapore is revving up for another sporting spectacle. 

The lights are all up and the streets are almost barricaded, and what is left now is the smell of burning rubber and the roar of 23 V8 engines around Marina Bay. 

SINGAPORE GIRLS GO FROM AIR TO TRACK

This year, SingTel passes the title sponsor torch of the Formula One night race to Singapore Airlines (SIA).

The telecommunications giant has been the event’s title sponsor since the inaugural edition in 2008, which was won by then-Renault driver Fernando Alonso. 

The national carrier is expected to pay close to what SingTel forked out for the sponsorship in past years, about US$10 million (S$12.5 million) annually.

This changing of the guard will also see the iconic Singapore Girls (flight stewardesses from the airline) in their trademark sarong kebayas, walking on the tarmac to guide Formula One drivers to their cars under the glare of the world’s spotlight.

2013 Singapore Grand Prix. Photo: AFP

PRE-RACE BUZZ

The annual race attracts a global television audience of around 360 million and about 40,000 visitors each year, reports said.

It is estimated to cost about S$150 million each year to organise, with 40 per cent borne by race promoters Singapore GP Pte Ltd, and 60 per cent co-funded by the Singapore Government. And it reportedly reaps about S$150 million of tourism revenue yearly. 

MORE F1: A-Z of the 2014 Formula One Singapore Grand Prix

As of 1 September, 80 per cent of tickets have already been snapped up with seven ticket categories all sold out for this year's race.

Limited tickets remain for the Bay Grandstand, Premier Walkabout and Sunday Pit Grandstand, and from the looks of it, this year’s edition of the event might even surpass last year’s attendance figure of 262,527 over three days.

””
A pop-up Formula One merchandise store at Mandarin Gallery on Orchard Road. Photo: David Teo

OFF-TRACK ACTIVITIES

Even before the more than 500 tons of equipment rolls into the paddock, the lead-up to the weekend cheer has been in motion. 

On Orchard Road, Singapore’s premier shopping belt, official F1 merchandise stores have popped up in front of malls, and there are Ferrari and Mercedes F1 cars on display. 

Claire Williams, Felipe Massa, Valterri Bottas and Susie Wolff from Williams Martini Racing are throwing a party at Zouk on 17 September to celebrate their debut at the Singapore race.

Formula One McLaren driver Kevin Magnussen will pay a visit to the Tag Heuer flagship store on 18 September to meet fans, as well as take part in a speed reaction challenge on the Batak Speed Reaction Test Machine – an equipment used by Formula One teams to sharpen driver reaction speeds and test hand-eye coordination. 

Also on 18 Sep, Mercedes’ race drivers Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg will make an appearance at Paragon to celebrate the 80th anniversary of the car-maker’s Silver Arrow racing car. 

Football personality David Beckham (right) made an appearance at the paddock and starting grid on race day in 2013. Photo: Singapore GP

PLAYING FAVOURITES

The Singapore Grand Prix marks the end of the European season, and with it comes the fate of the championship with seven races to go. 

Six years in, the Marina Bay Street Circuit is still a hot favourite among drivers and team bosses. The most exciting part of the experience here for spectators is still the thrill of watching Formula One machines race at night, even though Abu Dhabi and Bahrain may also race under floodlights.

For the race this weekend, Sahara Force India’s Vijay Mallya is “cautiously optimistic”.

He said: “This year, we’ve delivered a car that has worked on all tracks so we don’t have any concerns about Singapore. The warm temperatures and softer tyre compounds should also work in our favour. We’ve been working hard to bring some performance to the car as well, which should help us for the rest of the season.” 

Force India driver Nico Hulkenberg thinks that the race is “an amazing event” with “an atmosphere that is very special”.

“It looks spectacular on television. The first sector is my favourite part of the lap. It’s quick with a good overtaking opportunity going into Turn Seven. It’s usually where a lot of the action takes place in the race,” Hulkenberg said. 

Sauber’s Esteban Gutierrez added: "Overall I have good memories from Singapore. In 2013 we had a good qualifying, and it was the first time I made it into Q3. I am really looking forward to the weekend, and especially to geting the maximum out of the updates to the car we are having there. It is going to be an interesting race, and there is a realistic chance for a positive result." 

””
Will Sebastian Vettel pick up the Singapore Grand Prix again in 2014? Photo: Sutton Images / Singapore GP

RACE TALK

While 2013 belonged to Red Bull Racing, all eyes are on Mercedes this year.

Vettel, now on a streak of three-straight wins at Marina Bay, was truly dominant as the chicanes and 90-degree turns suited the blown diffuser-ed RB9 perfectly.

The question is, will the RB10 be able to mount any kind of challenge to the Mercedes W05?

With 21 wins and podium finishes between them this season, Mercedes team-mates and rivals Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton are the men to watch at this year’s Singapore Grand Prix.

The Italian Grand Prix showed that Hamilton is in reasonable shape for the championship, even though he is 22 points behind.

Despite a poor start, the English driver took a crucial victory in Monza after Rosberg made a mistake. 

Can Hamilton build on that in Singapore, a venue where he claimed victory in 2009?

Will Lewis Hamilton continue his winning streak? Photo: AFP

Hamilton said: “I'm still in the hunt for the championship and that is something that gives me huge motivation for the final six races, starting in Singapore. It's a great place to begin the final flyaway phase of the season. It's a street circuit and I love street circuits. I won there in 2009, which was a really special experience. My luck hasn't been great at this circuit since then, but hopefully that will change.”  

ACTION-PACKED

Singapore is well-known for action-packed races with the safety car needed in all previous editions. 

The 61 laps, at nearly one minute 50 seconds per lap, also make this event the longest in terms of race time, with every race very close to, if not hitting the two-hour limit. 

Who can forget watching Mark Webber hitch a ride on Fernando Alonso’s Ferrari here in 2013? That stunt earned Webber his third reprimand of the season and a 10-place grid penalty at the next race in South Korea.

Mark Webber on Fernando Alonso's Ferrari. Photo: Sutton Images / Singapore GP

Red Bull Racing’s rising star Daniel Ricciardo admitted that the evolution of the Marina Bay circuit will not allow the teams and drivers to rest across the three days of competition, as the streets gradually transform from everyday thoroughfares to F1 race track. 

His team-mate and 2013 Singapore Grand Prix champion Sebastian Vettel: “The circuit is fun but, at the same time, very challenging. You have to get close to your limits and risk a lot in order to get the greatest efficiency out of your car.” 

Pop diva Jennifer Lopez headlines The Padang stage on race day. Photo: AFP

MUSIC ACTS A HOT FAVOURITE

The Singapore Grand Prix continues to give more, and the excitement doesn’t end on the asphalt. 

It has earned a reputation for throwing some of the best after-parties and track-side concerts on the racing calendar.

The line-up this year includes Jennifer Lopez, pop superstar Robbie Williams, and Taiwanese rockers Mayday.

Race-goers can look forward to about 20 music acts, four illusionist-magicians and six performing acts this time.

””
Singapore band The Sam Willows will be performing at the Paddock Club, Sunset Stage and Esplanade Park this weekend

The eight other stages across the circuit park will feature Jamaican reggae star Ziggy Marley, British synth-pop pioneers Pet Shop Boys, Colombian latin-pop-jazz band The Shock, and American bluesman Seasick Steve among others.

Exciting performers from Singapore's live music scene, such as The Sam Willows, Vanessa Fernandez and Zsa + Claire, will be performing at various stages too.

Thrill-seekers also like to head to the Amber Lounge, Podium Lounge and Circuit Lounge, to rub shoulders with the well-heeled and connected. 

MORE PARTIES: Singapore Grand Prix 2014 Party Guide

The Singapore Grand Prix is more than just a race. It is Singapore showing off its grand hospitality to the world audience and motorsport's finest. 

2014 Formula 1 Singapore Airlines Singapore Grand Prix | Date: 19-21 September 2014 | Venue: Marina Bay Street Circuit | Tickets: from S$68 at www.singaporegp.sg/tickets/listings


Zaki Jufri writes about the arts, entertainment, film and other stuff for inSing.com

F1 2014: Formula 1 Singapore Airlines Singapore Grand Prix

F1 2014: Formula 1 Singapore Airlines Singapore Grand Prix

Date Sep 19, 2014 - Sep 21, 2014

VenueMarina Bay Street Circuit

Ticket PriceS$68.00 - S$1,288.00
 (excludes booking fee)