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Formula 1 Singapore Grand Prix: A festival That Lights Up The City And Its Commerce

The only F1 street circuit in Asia, the Singapore GP hosts almost a hundred thousand spectators in the finale night and engages not just most of Singapore but a lot of the world

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Festivals, have since time immemorial, boosted not just the mood of a civilization, but awarded an opportunity for its commerce to boost. One such modern day festival that Singapore is blessed with for 9 years now, is its Grand Prix.

Since the inaugural race in 2008, the F1 Singapore Grand Prix has generated approximately S$150 million in incremental tourism receipts per race. This year, when it was held between September 16 to 18, the receipts were estimated to maximize to $185 million. Costing approximately S$150 million to organise annually - the Singapore government co-funds 60 per cent of the boot money while the GP takes care of the remaining 40 per cent.

As a street circuit hosting the world's only night race in the Formula One calendar, the logistical setup is massive. The circuit and its facilities get build stage by stage over five months. A crew of over 4,000 works round the clock to set-up the temporary facilities in about 8,00,000sqm Circuit Park - which is equivalent of around 80 soccer fields. At peak time, the crew swells to around 12,000 and includes the highly enthusiastic youth who so justify the famous South-East Asia hospitality. The installations include everything from the concrete barriers, grandstands and hospitality facilities, entertainment stages and 1,600 lighting projectors that line the 5.065km track. Nico Rosberg finished the 61 lap race completing more than 300KM in 1hr 55mins before he left his own teammate from Mercedes, Lewis Hamilton at No.3 spot, to win the 2016 race. Much before that, Nico said "Singapore is definitely one of the highlights of the year. There's an amazing atmosphere and the whole city really comes to life for the race weekend. It's just unreal - I would really recommend anybody to come because it's a fantastic experience."

The only F1 street circuit in Asia, the Singapore GP hosts almost a hundred thousand spectators in the finale night and engages not just most of Singapore but a lot of the world. The night race that starts at 8pm ensures maximum exposure in Europe while in Asia, a late evening broadcast ensures maximum market exposure. Both viewers and spectators find the race almost as interesting a track as Monaco, one of the most famous of the F1 circuits. Interestingly, the hotel rooms facing the street circuit get filled up much in advance and at a huge premium.

However, what makes Singapore GP special is that it is far more than just a race. Like IPL in India, It's clearly a Tamasha that has something for everyone in Singapore. Outside the circuit, the bars, restaurants, lounges and hotels all adorn the hues and the flags of the race. There is more quality nightlife per square kilometer in race days than any other. Even if viewing is restricted due to the heavy barricading, the practice vrooms are definite heart warmers for anyone in the CBD. Of course, it's an experience for anyone who decides to buy a ticket for any of the 22 turns or the grandstands. Its a gourmet experience for the super rich who can afford one of the top hospitality offerings like a lanyard to the Paddock Club, a social media event for all spectators with it being an entertainment bonanza when top names like Kylie Minogue go up on stage each of the 3 nights. I was lucky to catch up with Michael Roche, Executive Director, Singapore GP - during one of the headliner acts and later got a personal tour of the Paddock Club with him. While proudly showing [off] the restaurants and introducing chefs like Jean Georges Vongerichten, he said "Top chefs of the world compete to get attention from the who's who of Asia, here. And attention they do get, with an average person eating almost 4-5 dinners on the night of the race" and he gives a proud wink. CNN corroborates that pride when it says that the Singapore GP is 1 of ten things Singapore does better than anywhere else - A fine compliment to the organisers.

What now remains to be seen is that after the 10th edition next year, if Singapore would want to retain the pleasure to host the GP. What's coming up is the negotiation for the next few years after the 10th. Experts and critics have varied viewpoints on the matter. While most say that the extension is almost a given, as it's a win-win for both Singapore as well as F1. Few others think that the purpose of both parties is now served and it may be beneficial for both to move on to greener pastures. As an hungry experientialist, I would hope It continues and many of us Indians stamp our passports with the easy to get visas at the race time.


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