Why F1 works in Singapore and what India can learn from it
By Bharat Sharma
Singapore, Sep 24 (PTI) If Singapore was already not happening enough, it gets its additional dose of energy from the Grand Prix, which has established its rightful place on the ever-crowded Formula 1 calendar in less than a decade.
The night-race in the city-state has been the shining light in a decade in which a number of races did not see the light of the day despite promising a lot, most recently India and Korea.
There are tangible reasons why the event has gone on to become arguably the most popular of the five races held in Asia.
A street race taking place on an otherwise busy public roads of the city, makes the event almost impossible for the locals and the tourists to ignore.
From the taxi driver to the average office-goer, they all can't help talking about the race, also known as the 'Monaco of the East'. Some love to discuss its positives, some find a few negatives.
"I don't think the race does anything substantial for Singapore. We live in a world-class city anyway, it is popular and will remain so irrespective of the race.
"In fact, the roads are shut during the week, causing inconvenience to the locals," said a cabbie ahead of the 10th Singapore Grand Prix that took place last week.
However, taxi drivers like him are very much in the minority with the entire city celebrating the "festival of speed".
And it is not just about cars careening around the street circuit in the backdrop of the island's spectacular skyline, a host of musical concerts and lifestyle events contribute significantly to the overall success of the Grand Prix.
International artists like The Chainsmokers, Ariana Grande, Duran Duran were the headline acts this time, enthralling the large crowd as the drivers battled out in the rain-hit race.
The hospitality area at the Marina Bay Street Circuit also adds to the uniqueness of the event. The organisers have created a high-end hospitality space for the rich and famous, who get to enjoy the race weekend with Michelin Star chefs and restaurants at their service.
"The F1 Paddock Club in Singapore is entirely different to what you see in other venues. We wanted to do something unique and every year, we try to do something different," said Michael Roche, executive director at Singapore GP.
While the Singaporean residents may have a diverse opinion, the government certainly thinks that the race has boosted the global image of the city.
Therefore, it was not a surprise when the race contract with Formula 1 was extended for another fours years after due deliberation and lengthy negotiations.
"Formula 1 has proved to be a game-changer for Singapore. It was always a safe city, tourist friendly for the visitors but was mainly seen as a family destination. That has changed in the last 10 years," G B Srithar, regional director (SAMEA) at Singapore Tourism Board, told PTI.
"Now Singapore has a lot more to offer all demographics. You can come here, have a good time with family, friends. You can even come and explore the city on your own. And you can also do serious business," he added.
The government sees substantial gains from the race and that is why it will continue to fund 60 percent of the event cost with the remaining coming from a private promoter.
Besides the fans, the Formula 1 fraternity too likes to come here.
"It feels nice that you are racing in the heart of the city, much like Monaco. Most conventional circuits around the worlds are in the outskirts and you don't feel the pulse of the city there.
"But here you can feel the entire city is involved in the race. It is probably my favourite race in Asia, even more than Japan though the track is one of the best besides the rich motorsport tradition there," said a team official.
It is difficult to draw a parallel between Singapore and India, considering the race from 2011-2013 was fully funded by Jaypee Group and the government had little role to play in it.
The promoters, despite their limitations, did a commendable job until they landed into serious financial problems and the race was taken off the Formula 1 roster.
Though the race is unlikely to return in the near future, the government's interest in the global sport will go a long way in sending the right feelers to the F1 fraternity, which remains as apprehensive as ever about India.
Taking a cue from Singapore, one hopes that the Indian government would wake up to the benefits of hosting a Grand Prix