Sunday was the day of the main race, the action set to start at eight o’clock that evening. The Singapore Grand Prix is officially the flagship Formula One Night Race, although the races in Abu Dhabi and more recently Bahrain are also held under a night sky.
Factoring in the tight and twisty nature of the Marina Bay Street Circuit, a lap around it took well over 100 seconds to complete. Even though it is one of the longest lap times among all F1 tracks, the circuit isn’t all that lengthy—only a little upwards of five kilometers. Given that the race has always been set for 61 laps, the Singapore Grand Prix is actually the longest race on the F1 calendar in terms of time, easily reaching a full two hours on most occasions. With all that racing, we’re really getting our money’s worth for our tickets.
My dad, my sister, and I had lunch at a Japanese restaurant at ARC near the Labrador Park MRT station. I asked my sister for a weather forecast from her phone and she told me that there was a 70% chance of rain later in the afternoon. Immediately, I thought about what this meant for the race later on, as there has never been a rainy Singapore Grand Prix main race. I figured that if the rain was forecast anywhere within the three o’clock to five o’clock time window, that would still probably leave the track damp by the time the lights turn green. Outside, it was pretty humid and overcast, so I predicted a thunderstorm. Just like the previous day, my dad and my sister returned home while I stayed out, passing a couple of hours in VivoCity and then commuted to Esplanade, arriving at around half past four.
Before entering the gates, I decided to go up to Marina Square and found a balcony that overlooked Raffles Boulevard and Turn 7 towards Nicoll Highway. This is a great viewing spot for non-ticket-holders who wish to see some race action. There were a few people already leaning against the guard rail, obviously waiting for the TCR International Series supporting race to begin. I waited almost thirty minutes before the touring cars passed by for their warm-up lap. The crowd around me quickly grew denser and I bet some of them were already claiming their own spots a full three hours early to view the F1 race. If I didn’t have a ticket, I figured the spectacular view was definitely worth standing almost five hours for. I spent an hour there watching the TCR and Porsche Carrera Cup races until their conclusions.
It was thrilling to watch the action from the balcony but it wasn’t a particularly comfortable experience as it was punishingly humid. The forecasted rain had not come and as I gazed over to the north, I saw that the skies were threatening with a possible thunderstorm. The start of the F1 race was steadily approaching and the clouds had not dumped the rain they held yet.
I decided to enter the track complex once the Porsche Cup race was over. I went straight to the merchandise stands underneath the Bay Grandstand and, having exchanged almost all of my allowance savings for an equivalent amount in Singapore dollars, purchased a black replica Lewis Hamilton Mercedes snapback cap. Immediately, I returned to my now-favorite Raffles Avenue viewing spot in time for the drivers’ parade where all of them stand on a platform driven around the track and wave to the fans. I was really looking forward to this, to see the drivers up close in normal clothing, far different from their heavily-covered race ensemble of fireproof overalls and crash helmet that make them seem so superhuman while driving in their cars.
I figured that when they passed, I’d call out to Alex Rossi, who was only appointed his Manor Marussia race seat a few days prior. Not only was he the newest driver on the grid, he was also the lone American. Since Manor isn’t the most popular team, perhaps there wouldn’t have been a lot of fans trying to cheer them on, especially for a freshly-appointed driver like Rossi, so I felt like I wanted to give the rookie some support by calling out his name. I prepared my voice to call out, “Rossi!” loud enough for him to hear. Maybe he just might notice me among the crowd as I imagined that I’d probably be the only one to yell and wave at a virtually yet-unknown rookie driver like him. Twenty minutes later, when all the drivers arrived at Raffles Avenue, I failed to do my assignment. The truck that their platform was on was traveling quite too fast for me to get a proper view of all of them and I only got to identify a handful of the drivers—I couldn’t find Rossi among them.
I first saw Nico Hulkenberg, who is a strikingly tall, blonde German, hands casually in his pockets, facing and smiling at the crowd I’m in. The people behind me started cheering and someone called out, “Lewis!” The Mercedes driver, wearing sunglasses, was standing right beside Hulkenberg and already waving at us. I still struggled to clearly focus on a particular driver but I managed to spot Lewis and waved at him. Over at the back of the platform, I noticed Will Stevens, actually one of the shorter drivers on the grid. So on the few seconds that the drivers were in front of me, I was only able to identify Hulkenberg (the tallest), Stevens (one of the shortest), and Hamilton. I held my iPad recording a video but in the heat of the moment, I completely forgot to pan my shot and follow the platform as it moved past me.
After this, I met up with my dad and sister, going back to the Bay Grandstand to eat dinner at one of the numerous food concessionaires underneath. The skies towards the north were still threatening but seemed to have cleared up as compared to how it looked an hour ago. After all the walking that I did and all the steam coming from the grillers of the food concessionaires, I felt the heat and humidity at its worst throughout the entire weekend. My skin was completely damp and my t-shirt stubbornly clung to me as I ate a very warm and slightly undercooked serving of fish and chips. I tried to finish my food as quickly as possible to get up to our seats where the air was at least fresher but I became very sluggish due to the tortuous heat.
When we all finally finished dinner, we bounded the stairs up to our grandstand seats twenty minutes before the start of the race. Some cars were passing by for their reconnaissance laps before lining up on the starting grid. I noticed that Ferrari was the predominantly supported team among the viewers in attendance. There were lots of red shirts and some Ferrari flags being waved in our grandstand. Settling down on our seats, I had to strain both my hearing and vision for the commentary coming from the loudspeaker and the giant screens propped up on the floating stadium across the stretch of track in front of us. I looked up at the skies and figured that the clouds have completely cleared up, something also the commentators had just noted as I kept an ear to the distant speaker system. Despite the humidity, it looked like all conditions were set for a thrilling evening of Formula One racing around the streets of Singapore. The race that followed would probably be one of my all-time favorites even if I weren’t in live attendance.