Singapore's unique atmosphere


By Lee McKenzie

The Singapore Grand Prix week is one of extremes, this year’s in particular. Extreme heat, extreme rain, dehydration, happiness on one side of the Mercedes garage, despair on the other.

It’s also a race weekend where there seem to be more hours in the day, more bizarre things happening than usual (even in F1 terms) and where strange timings and goings on become the norm.

My days go along these lines – get up at 12.30, gym, leave the hotel at 2.30 and walk for 20 minutes through three shopping malls, along a succession of corridors lined by shops that you can find in any corner if the globe, up and down escalators, dodge some shoppers and eventually emerge somewhere near the paddock. We work and film until roughly 2.00am, then head out to eat. This is where things get tricky, because nowhere is open in Singapore.

Much of the paddock, and on one occasion even the infamous chef Gordon Ramsay, headed to an outdoor hawkers market that serves surprisingly tasty food, although you would never choose to eat there under normal circumstances. I head to bed around 5.00-ish while the more fun people stay out a little longer. We then get up and do it all again.

At night the lights come on and create a strange but electric atmosphere with an incredible energy. People sit around outside in the paddock in the evening, enjoying the ambient temperatures, chatting, relaxing and not just rushing away, which is very different to other Grands Prix. That is, apart from Saturday night after qualifying, when the rain fell in a biblical way. I got totally soaked through while interviewing the top three drivers so ran into Red Bull for shelter.

But as with everywhere, the air con was so strong it wasn’t long before the packed room full of drenched people was shivering, the windows were steamed, and being out in the rain seemed a more comfortable option. The way into the TV compound was completely flooded, more than ankle deep in water. I blow dried my hair, blow dried my clothes and reappeared on camera for my 10-minute evening show from every race, Inside F1 on the BBC News Channel. We didn’t look too shabby but sadly my shoes didn’t survive the great flood!

This is now the race where business is done, contracts are signed and things start to take shape for the forthcoming season. In a time gone by it used to be Monaco but as the season continues to get longer, Monte Carlo has become the teaser for the big players while Singapore is where they get down to business.

With Bernie Ecclestone’s pledge at the weekend to have eight teams running three cars as early as next season, it has put the brakes on any movement in the driver market. Bernie says we will know in three or four races time. That will be either the last or penultimate Grand Prix of the year, which doesn’t seem like a realistic timescale, and no team is in favour of the move. But in Formula 1 that doesn’t mean a whole lot.

The race on Sunday was a good one as far as Singapore races go. There was suspense right until the chequered flag. It was a shame that we were all denied a battle on track between Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg after reliability problems cost the German his championship lead and gave him his second DNF of the season. In many ways Mercedes has been lucky that its rivals have been so much poorer this season. Yes, reliability has been a tough trick to master for all teams in this new era of F1, but it is highlighted even more when two drivers fighting for a title are losing valuable points and positions in the championship through no fault of their own.

How disappointing would it be after all the drama, fabulous racing and soap opera style feuds if the Drivers’ Championship was won, or indeed lost, by a glitch in an unfathomable system. We all want more than that – the drivers deserve more than that.


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