Sunday, December 6, 2015

Watching Race Cars Zoom Past at Singapore's F1 Night Race

Since 2008, Singapore has been hosting the F1 Night Race every year without fail. As years gone by, each F1 race has gotten better and better with more exciting activities, concerts and of course the race itself. This year, I finally got the chance to experience the F1 Night Race myself so here’s a closer look at this exciting and jam-packed event.

History of Singapore’s F1 Race

The Singapore government wanted to find a way to boost tourism in Singapore apart from the two casinos, the Marina Bay Sands and the Resorts World Sentosa. One way to do that was to host the official F1 race and not just any F1 race, but the world’s first F1 Night Race (as Singapore can get has a warm climate). After several agreements, Singapore began hosting the world’s first F1 Night Race in 2008 with SingTel, a local telecom company, being the title sponsor.

Fast forward to 2012, it was thought that that year would be the last year where the F1 Night Race would be held due to its 5-year contract. The contract was eventually extended for another five years with Singapore Airlines being the new title sponsor replacing SingTel from the 2014 race onwards. Since then, the F1 Night Race has been a yearly must-go event for racegoers all over the world.

What is at the F1 Night Race? 

The F1 Night Race caters to everybody and not just race fanatics only. It’s a carnival, food festival, music festival and a party rolled into one making an excellent choice for people of all ages. I went for the first day of the race which was also the first day of their practice run with the final race taking place on the following Sunday.

International music superstars made their appearances as well with three of them performing as headliners (Pharrell Williams on Friday, Maroon 5 on Saturday and the legendary Bon Jovi on Sunday). Definitely a real treat for everyone attending the Night Race.

Entering the F1 Night Race Premises

I entered the premises (the race track is known as the Marina Bay Street Circuit) with my less-than-$100 Zone 4 Walkabout Ticket which allows me access to various viewing platforms and vantage points in Zone 4 like the Esplanade Theatres and the Padang.

For access to other zones, you need a more expensive pass. Ticket counters were available at all entrances of the Marina Bay Street Circuit if you want to enter at the last minute. Once we were in, viewing platforms, loud music and big screen TVs were everywhere giving racegoers an extraordinary racing experience.

Watching the Porsche Carrera Cup

The race track was also shared with two other races, the Porsche Carrera Cup Asia and the TCR International Series. The first day was also the day where they held their first Practice Sessions as well. I got a closer view of the Porsche Carrera Cup racing cars zooming past near the entrance of the Esplanade Theatres. Seeing them zoom past made me excited as it was my first time experiencing such moments.

The race cars used for the Porsche Carrera Cup were indeed smaller which was why it was slightly less on the noise side. This can be considered the ‘teaser’ before the official Practice Run happening later in the night.

The Festival Village

As we were waiting for the F1 race cars to race for their second practice run, I explored the Festival Village at the Padang area to see what’s in store. Booths selling F1 Night Race memorabilia were aplenty with the queues occupied by race fanatics along with the presence of title sponsor Singapore Airline’s (SIA) air-conditioned booth.

The SIA booth was where you could participate in some interesting activities like taking photos at the photo booth, race a virtual F1 race car and try out their new “Premium Economy” seats, a new airline experience recently introduced by SIA. SIA-themed paper fans were also distributed to passers-by.

Huge TV Screens Everywhere

Tired of walking around finding the perfect spot to watch the race cars zooming past? Big TV Screens were everywhere giving you a great live view of the race complete with high quality footage, statistics and an announcer. It’s like a bigger, better and livelier version of the race that you watch at home.

Some racegoers made themselves comfortable with picnic mats witnessing all the action from the grass patch and enjoying the food they bought at the nearby Food Village.

Performances and Mini Concerts All Over The Place

Watching the race not your thing? Performances and mini concerts were happening all over the premises ready to entertain you and make you dance. At Zone 4 itself, there were three stages, the Zouk Mambo Stage where Zouk’s (famous local nightclub) resident DJs performed, the Coyote Stage where American singer Jimmy Cliff on Friday performed and of course the Main Stage where all the headlining acts would perform.

Roving acts and performances could also be found all over the place ready to entertain you. One of which was a Captain Jack Sparrow impersonator which attracted quite a lot of attention by the racegoers.

The F1 Food Village

Another favourite of the racegoers was the F1 Food Village which was filled with lots of racegoers filling up their stomachs and drinking plastic cups full of beer. The place itself was very lively with everyone enjoying their food from burgers to kebabs to local delights like Satay.

As it was too expensive for me to buy their food, I went out of their premises for a short while to stuff myself with a delicious McDonald’s fast food meal at the nearby Boat Quay.

The Official F1 Practice Run

After having a nice meal and a good walk around the Festival Village, I watched the second Practice Run involving the official F1 cars and racers at various locations like the viewing gallery located at the Esplanade Bridge, the bus stop near the Esplanade Mall and the viewing gallery behind the War Memorial Park facing Stamford Road.

The view at the Esplanade Bridge was good but too many people occupied the platforms which made it slightly uncomfortable. On the other hand the Esplanade Mall entrance didn’t have as much people although the view was not as good.

I did get to see the cars slow down to turn to the Bay Grandstand which was indeed cool. Best place to watch was the area near the War Memorial Park where you could see the cars turn from Nicoll Highway.

Headlining Act by Pharrell Williams

To end things off on a high note, all racegoers moved to the Padang to watch international superstar and hitmaker, Pharrell Williams perform his popular hits like Get Lucky, Lose Yourself To Dance and of course, the international favourite, Happy from the movie, Despicable Me 2.

He continued to entertain us song after song and the more he performed, the more energetic the crowd got even though it was minutes to midnight. Halfway through while he was taking a break, he got his dancers to perform a short dance routine which got everyone dancing.

The Concert After Midnight

After midnight, Pharrell ended it all off with his hit song, Happy, featuring Singapore kids singing along and a video of the Despicable Me 2 movie playing in the background.

Everyone danced and sang along to the song making the venue more lively and energetic which definitely made a great ending to the whole F1 experience.

Walking Along The Race Track

After the concert, it was time to head home but before proceeding to Clarke Quay MRT Station (as City Hall MRT was choked with concertgoers going home), we got a chance to walk along the race track. It was quite a cool experience especially with the floodlights shining brightly and the Rolex logos plastered everywhere.

Racegoers kept themselves busy taking out their selfie sticks and smartphones snapping a pic or two of themselves at the track. Walking along the race track was certainly an experience like never before.

Overview of the Singapore F1 Night Race

The whole event was definitely an awesome experience not only for racing fanatics but for everyone regardless of their age. You could see race cars zoom past, watch exciting roving and independent performers, enjoy delicious food at the Food Village and of course, dancing away to the Headlining Acts.

The Marina Bay Street Circuit was big and everywhere you go, there were so many entertainment options for you to enjoy from. If you haven’t experience the F1 Night Race yourselves, perhaps it’s time for you to do so next year. I know I will definitely come back next year for another round of exciting race activities.

More Information 

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