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A race like no other

The Singapore Grand Prix experience

Linkin Park, Maroon 5, Robbie Williams, Bon Jovi, the Biebs, even Boy George, and more recently Bastille and Imagine Dragons, all have something in common, and it’s not who they dated. That would be weird… really weird.

These marquee names have all, at one point in time, lit up and rocked out the Padang stage as part of the sights and sounds spectacle that is the Formula 1 Singapore Grand Prix (SGP).

An eye-popping thirty-three performers were live throughout the weekend of September 16-18 and not the Zika virus nor the heat and humidity of the city-state of Singapore was going to stop me from checking out the 2016 Formula 1 SGP.

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Photos courtesy of Singapore Grand Prix

Marina Bay Street Circuit

The track used by F1 cars is actually composed of regular streets, making it similar to Circuit de Monaco used during the Monaco Grand Prix and the Valencia Street Circuit (European Grand Prix 2008-2012) in Spain.

Republic Boulevard, Raffles Boulevard, Nicoll Highway, Stamford Road, Saint Andrew’s Road and Esplanade Drive are closed to traffic during the SGP weekend and lit up brighter than daylight with 1,600 units of 2,000-watt white metal halide lamps.

Manhole covers on the narrow 5.065-kilometer street track are welded shut because, at 290 kilometers per hour, F1 cars will launch these covers like the Enterprise on warp speed.

With twenty-three turns all in all, the Marina Bay Street Circuit is the slowest track in the F1 calendar with an average speed of only 168 kilometers per hour.

Slow, yes but grueling.

Braking to a full stop within three seconds 23 times per lap from almost 300kph is like three times your body weight literally pressing on you for as long as your foot is on the brake. In other words, that’s 3Gs of force exerted on your body for two straight hours. If the thought alone doesn’t make you cry, that amount of force will literally squeeze liquid out of your tear ducts while sucking your breath away.


Sights and sounds

The Marina Bay Street Circuit is divided into four zones, each offering its own unique experience of the race weekend.

Five stages are spread out between Zones 1 and 4 and you’ll need tickets that offer access to all zones to be able to see all five stages. Prices for this type of ticket start at S$498 all the way to the ultra-premium Paddock Club priced at S$ 9,710.54.

If you’re only after the big musical acts, you can opt for any of the ticket categories offering only Zone 4 access, as this is where the main stage, Padang, is located.

Armed with my Bay Grandstand ticket, I had access to Zones 3 and 4 throughout the three-day race weekend and to be honest, these two were more than I could handle.

As I entered Gate 5 by Raffles City, I was greeted by the now subtler roar of the 1.6-liter V6 turbocharged engines of the F1 cars on the Esplanade Drive section of the track.

My adrenaline shot up immediately, making it hard to choose between stepping right up to the barriers for a closer look at the F1 cars or exploring the vast expanse of the area lined with various attractions — including a hawker’s area, restaurants offering assorted cuisine and bars with different beverages, wines and spirits, plus stores with official F1 merchandise, photo booths, free interactive games at the Fan Village and highly entertaining roving acts.

When watching concerts in Padang, keep this in mind. All acts are on time, down to the very second. You can shout “encore” until you’re hoarse but the last song is definitely the THE LAST SONG, unless it’s the main act of the day, which plays a little after 10pm. No one plays on the Padang stage during practice, qualifying and the main race.

Since all shows are on time, if you have access to Zone 1 and 4, it means you’ll be ‘brisk walking’ close to three kilometers each way to catch ‘em all.

My best tip is, wear loose, cool clothing and comfy shoes.


SGP experience

Despite closing six major roads of the busy part of town, traffic to and from the circuit flowed amazingly freely, which made attending the SGP even by taxi so easy.

Subway would be the best option because it’s cheaper and there are gates near most stations in the area.

All areas inside the Marina Bay Street Circuit are so clearly marked and labeled. If that’s not enough, marshals are everywhere to answer your queries or to direct foot traffic.

There are also a variety of culinary delights to choose from and they are all strategically located so you don’t run on empty in between snacks.

The mood is highly festive and everyone is set on party mode, making it so easy to strike up a conversation. If you’re single, go ahead and mingle.

For music fans, the F1 SGP is the perfect venue to begin an appreciation for Formula 1; racing fans on the other hand, get three days worth of concerts from the world’s biggest artists — a win-win situation all around.

As a three-day festival combining an assortment of cuisine, a global collection of artists, the highest level of single-seat auto racing and world-class event management by Singapore GP Pte Ltd., the annual Singapore Grand Prix is quite simply, a race like no other.