Formula One: Fans, teams, drivers gear up for return of Singapore night race

After a two-year absence because of the pandemic, the 1,600 or so custom-made floodlights are now on, ready to shine the spotlight as the city prepares for its biggest party since 2019.

Laura Chia

Laura Chia

The Straits Times


After a two-year absence because of the pandemic, the 1,600 or so custom-made floodlights are now on. ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

September 28, 2022

SINGAPORE – The shine has returned to the Marina Bay Street Circuit, home of Formula One’s crown jewel, the Singapore Airlines Singapore Grand Prix.

After a two-year absence because of the pandemic, the 1,600 or so custom-made floodlights are now on, ready to shine the spotlight as the city prepares for its biggest party since 2019, with organisers announcing that this year’s edition is set to surpass the 268,000 visitors it hosted then.

Off the track, nearly 90,000 delegates are expected to attend several large-scale meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions, including government officials, corporate titans and industry leaders.

The stars of the show – the drivers – have already begun jetting in, ready to paint the town red and their helmets pink.

McLaren’s Lando Norris was one of the first drivers to announce his arrival, first posting a photo of an airplane window followed by a photo of himself with his suitcase outside the hotel on Monday.

His caption said it all: seven Singapore flags.

Alpine’s Esteban Ocon followed suit on Tuesday, posting a photo of himself on the plane followed by a photo of Singapore.

Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz and Haas’ Mick Schumacher both uploaded photos of themselves working out in the gym as they prepared to take on the 5.063km anti-clockwise circuit – whose tight, twisty nature, coupled with the country’s steamy weather – make it one of the toughest assignments of the year.

In contrast, F1’s first Chinese driver Zhou Guanyu ramped up for his first race in Singapore by unveiling a specially designed helmet for this weekend which pays tribute to his – and Singaporeans’ – love of bubble tea.

The Alfa Romeo man’s pink helmet has cups of the beverage in different colours on it with the words “Zhou loves bubble tea” in English and Mandarin.

The 23-year-old has another reason for a toast: His contract was extended for another year on Tuesday.

The teams have also been counting down to this week on social media.

Norris’ team, who unveiled a new livery for the race in the Lion City, also tweeted: “We’ve waited 3 years to say this… it’s race week in Singapore!”

Williams uploaded a photo showing Marina Bay Sands and the Esplanade in their full glory at night on Monday with the caption: “Hey Alexa, play All Of The Lights by Kanye West.”

At the circuit, work crews raced to put on the finishing touches, wiping the plastic seats down, affixing safety signs, testing some of the lighting. Amid the frenzy of activity, the F1 travelling circus – with its tons of equipment in tow – arrived by the truckload.

On Wednesday, the fringe activities featuring drivers will kick off the countdown officially. Canadian Nicholas Latifi, who is leaving Williams at the end of this season, will be making an appearance at his team’s pop-up store in Suntec City, while Briton Norris will greet fans at McLaren’s lego car set-up along Orchard Road.

Fans are not missing out on the build-up either with Ferrari follower Marsha Izzah Mohamed Azhar planning to attend both events. She has already visited the Promenade area, merchandise stores as well as displays by McLaren and Aston Martin to get in the mood.

Her sister Elysha also took a walk along parts of the track last week. Even just looking at the seats from outside was enough to get her excited for her first grand prix.

Elysha, 17, said: “It felt very surreal being on the track because the posters were up and I went to the see the seats being put up as well and it didn’t sink in then.

“Today, when Lando posted that he’s here, that’s when I realised, ‘Oh my god, it’s happening this week’.”

Marsha, 19, added she has also been reading about people’s experiences at the Singapore Grand Prix, especially from the Bay Grandstand from where she will watch.

She said: “I’ve been going on Twitter to see who’s going and arranging to meet new friends. This gets you really hyped because we can see not just Singaporeans but people flying in to watch as well and it’s really exciting to be a part of this community.”

This year, there is additional spice on the track. Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, who leads Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc by a whopping 116 points, could clinch his first Singapore Grand Prix win and second world title this weekend although a whole host of factors need to align for the latter to happen.

Marina Bay will also host an all-women racing series – the W Series – for the first time.

“I’m excited to watch the W Series because there are no women in F1 and watching them work towards their goal and seeing their commitment, it’s really not easy for them,” added Marsha.

“A lot of people are expecting Max to win in Singapore, so even though I’m a Ferrari fan, hopefully I get to see that because it would be nice to see such historic moments happening at this race.”

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