BY CHERYL TAY
This year’s Formula 1 SingTel Singapore Grand Prix wasn’t as dramatic as previous years, but it was still exciting and I felt goosebumps when the cars were lining up on the grid and preparing their start launches.
A week has gone by — what is it about the Singapore Grand Prix that you remember? Here are the moments that I remembered most about my F1 week, in no particular order:
1. Michael Schumacher made his first public appearance in Singapore.
Part of the pre-race activities off-track included the seven-time World Champion’s first public appearance in Singapore. Last year, in his first comeback season, he made no appearance at all. This time, it gave Mercedes-Benz great pleasure to hold a special event at Paragon just for the legend to meet and greet fans. Albeit brief, it meant a lot to many to have him make his presence.
2. Sebastian Vettel won the race but the crowning of his championship title has been delayed.
Talk was all about the possibility of Sebastian Vettel sealing his championship title here and there were all these permutations and combinations being done up of where the other contenders had to finish in order for Vettel to win. In the end it was Jenson Button who delayed Vettel from his crowning. Vettel has secured 11 pole positions, nine race wins and a coup of 309 points. That’s 124 points ahead of Button who only has 185 points. With a maximum of 125 points to be achieved in the remaining races, Vettel just needs one more point and the title’s his.
3. Felipe Massa interrupted Lewis Hamilton’s post-race interview.
Back in the paddock, Hamilton was being interviewed on international TV when Massa walked up to him and pulled him on the shoulder, going “Good job, very good job” sarcastically while showing a thumbs-up sign. Hamilton turned round sharply and said “Don’t touch me man. Don’t touch me.” Hamilton then said “Well, there you go.” and left, denying the reporters their interviews!
Basically, while Hamilton was attempting an overtaking move on Massa, he damaged his front wing and punctured Massa’s rear right tyre in the process. This pretty much ruined both their races as they had to pit to make repairs. Hamilton even had to serve a drive-through penalty for causing the collision and dropped to 19th, but fiercely chased back to fifth.
4. Michael Schumacher goes airborne.
The only safety car in the race was brought out by Michael Schumacher, when he rear-ended Sauber’s Sergio Perez. It started with Schumacher’s team-mate Nico Rosberg overtaking Perez on the 28th lap for seventh place. Perez managed to get back ahead of Rosberg, but Rosberg responded and both cars made contact into the first corner where Perez went wide. Schumacher was observing everything from behind and took his chance to close in. Unfortunately, it was a misjudgment on his part and he went into the back of Perez, going airborne for a few seconds before crashing straight into a safety wall.
5. Fernando Alonso tarnishes Singapore track record.
I was thinking Fernando Alonso might be the man who would prevent Vettel from clinching the title so soon. Based on brief history, Alonso has made it to the podium at all three Singapore Grand Prix races — winning on two out of three occasions. However, this time he had to settle for fourth place as Mark Webber overtook him at a most crucial moment right after the Safety Car period ended.
6. Jenson Button pressurised Sebastian Vettel in the closing stages of the race.
The crowds were roaring and cheering as Button closed in on Vettel towards the end of the race — eventually finishing just 1.7 seconds behind the latter. Button was getting frustrated at time wasted behind the backmarkers, but according to Vettel, he wasn’t driving his car to the limits.
7. Fireworks display immediately after the race ended.
I knew there was going to be a fireworks display right after the race ended, but somehow it still took me by surprise when the night sky lit up with the brilliant splashes of colours. I was making my way down to the Padang and squeezing with the crowds, but when I heard the fireworks, I stopped in my tracks and stood to watch the display till it was over.
8. One of the 50,000 who filled up the Padang just to catch Linkin Park.
I didn’t get one of the 2,000 daily Fan Zone wristbands which allows access to the front of the stage and get as close to the performers as possible. Undeterred, I trudged my way (with heavy backpack and equipment in tow) to the Padang field and inched my way forward through the tens of thousands of people to get as close I could just to watch Linkin Park ‘live’. By the way, that was my first time catching a ‘live’ concert.
9. F1 and its parties.
What’s F1 without parties? Since you’re already in town to catch the spectacular race, make the trip worth more and have a great night out! There was the Ferrari party at Resorts World Sentosa’s soon-to-be-opened Maritime Experiential Museum & Aquarium, the Johnnie Walker Jet Black party at One on the Bund on both days, the Amber Lounge fashion show on Saturday and the party itself on Sunday where some of the drivers show up at after the race. I remember Red Bull Racing’s huge party in 2008 at Café Del Mar — we need more of those!
10. Paddock Club experience.
I was fortunate enough to get an invite to M Lounge on Saturday and along with that came a Paddock Club ticket to the world of luxury and exclusivity. No wonder all 4,000 Paddock Club tickets were sold out! A three-day Paddock Club ticket costs about S$8,000 by the way. Top-notch cuisine from Michelin-starred chefs, ‘live’ entertainment acts, free massages, ice cream and palm reading, as well as the best view of the main straight from right above the pits — what more can you ask for?
11. Walking into the team garages and being this close to the cars.
I was taken on tours into the garages of this season’s top teams McLaren and Red Bull Racing. I learnt that McLaren practises their pit stops about 40 times over a race weekend, while Red Bull Racing practises their pit stops about 60 times. That’s insane. Although there is a set of engineers for each driver within the team, everyone comes together for a pit stop and they keep practising to make sure that they can get a simple tyre change done in less than three seconds. Back in the factory they don’t stop practising either — it’s that hardcore.
12. Having lunch with official sole tyre supplier Pirelli and the Shell team about their Ferrari technical partnership.
If F1′s a stage, then the drivers are the stars and the teams are the stage crews. Red Bull Racing’s team principal Christian Horner once told me, “Behind the scenes there is a lot of effort by the hundreds of engineers, technicians, manufacturing guys. The driver is only one element and there has to be a huge support mechanism to ensure that the cars can deliver what the driver wants. The driver is one very important part of the team, but it’s not all about the driver. Also, it’s not just the people here at the track but also the people back at the factory.”
That’s why — I always enjoy a chance to speak to the people who make these things happen. Pirelli shared their challenges on having to develop tyres for F1 in such a short period of time, while Shell shared their long-standing relationship with Ferrari and how it’s more than just a sponsorship.
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