Badger fan Paul Dunlop attended last month’s Singapore Grand Prix, which included a very special visit to the paddock on Saturday…. he also recorded the thoughts and experiences of his maiden F1 event for us along the way.
Having never been to Singapore before, let alone a Grand Prix, the Marina Bay street circuit seemed like a spectacular place to start.
What we found when we arrived was a fantastically friendly, organised and fun city. There was lots happening and loads of Grand Prix build-up events going on around the circuit.
We picked up our tickets on Monday evening from the Raffles Convention Centre; at this point the track was still being constructed, but the lighting was up and running, making it easy to walk along the circuit route and see its outline from various hotels and bars.
Although we didn’t try at this point, it was perfectly possible to walk along the track without any issue.
We arrived at the track at 2 o’clock local time on Friday. The weather, needless to say, was blazingly hot and humid. There was already a massive queue at the entrance near the city centre and, after about 40 minutes of standing in line (and some very efficient bag checking) we were in.
Now came our chance to explore the best places from which to watch the race. We had Premium Walkabout tickets, which meant all of the track zones were open to us; the only places we couldn’t go were the grandstands. We took the chance to watch the JK Asia Racing Series and Porsche Carrera Cup Asia cars running in practice and qualifying.
We decided that the stands around turn 1 and 2 looked good for the start and around turn 5, just before the main straight, for the middle of the race. During F1 Practice 2 we took a trip on the Singapore Flyer, which was free for all Zone 1 and Premier Walkabout ticket holders. It was really interesting to see the cars bombing round from a birdseye view; even from that high, the noise was immense.
We spent Saturday exploring the circuit some more and trying to find a good spot to view the race around turn 7, where we thought some DRS overtaking might be happening.
Unfortunately, there were a distinct lack of viewing areas towards that part of the track.
While there was some exciting action in the support races, obviously F1 qualifying was the main focus. Vettel took pole: surprise, surprise!
The highlight of the day was unquestionably a specially-arranged pit and paddock tour with the Marussia Virgin Racing team. BadgerGP editor Adam was kind enough to help arrange the tour (ed: no problem!), and I met the lovely Elissa for a one-on-one trip around the facilities after qualifying. The media where still interviewing Vettel and Webber as I arrived in the paddock and a lot of the drivers were still wandering about. Eddie Jordan was chatting away to various people and there was a real buzz about the place.
Elissa took me round the Virgin garages and, to my delight, the cars were still there and being worked on. It was a great chance to see the engineers doing their thing, as well as to see the guts of the car.
To my surprise none of the garage area was air conditioned, supposedly in order to help the drivers stay acclimatised in the humid Singapore conditions. It was also interesting to see the gold plating on the back of the drivers’ seats and the cockpit assembly to help with heat transfer. It’s a lot of these smaller details you simply don’t get to see on TV and which made the whole thing so magical.
After a cooling drink in the Virgin hospitality suite I headed off and left the team to their work. It was a truly memorable experience – thanks to BadgerGP and Marussia Virgin Racing for making it happen.
Sunday’s proceedings started a little later (4pm) with the final two support series races, followed by the drivers parade and then the main event.
We managed to get a good seat at turn 1, right on the inside of the corner. Seeing all 24 cars pile through turn one in close formation for the first time was thrilling; it was so intense and exciting and somehow everyone managed to make it through cleanly.
We spent the rest of the race watching from turn 5 and then a balcony under the Singapore Flyer (with some cold drinks and comfy chairs in front of a big screen) as the cars raced through the final corner below. We were treated to a spectacular fireworks display as Vettel crossed the line and moved to within one point of the taking the championship.
Having not been to any other Grand Prix before it’s hard to judge the experience with perspective, but it’s clear to me that Singapore is a fantastic city: welcoming, safe and friendly. Holding the race at night really adds something to the occasion and the track, while not that thrilling on TV, is something special to see in real life. You really can’t appreciate some of the beautiful backdrops and scenery that surround the circuit without being there. I can’t wait until next time!
Huge thanks to Marussia Virgin Racing for being so brilliant and making Paul’s grand prix weekend even more fantastic – follow MVR on Twitter here – they are one if, if not, the best team on the grid in terms of social media and fan interaction – get involved!
And here’s some more photos from Paul’s trip: