Posted on by Glen Wheeler
The Singapore Grand Prix has always had a place in my heart. I’ve had a buzz about the small island and its backdrop from a young age. As a huge Formula One fan, having a race announced on the streets of Singapore back in 2007 nearly made my head pop, imagining the scenes. The first night race ever on the Formula One calendar and whilst it remained on the calendar, I for sure was not going to miss out.
Towards the end of 2012 I decided to get my head down and plan ahead into 2013. After a long discussion, some great advice, a few games of pool and a few sneaky beer's with my good friend Steven I decided to call it a day with my current employer, and in February 2013 I decided to leave my job to start working for myself as a developer under a limited company.
I've always been the type of person who has set targets. I've grown up as a competitive team player in sport because both myself and my team mates had been really successful. I believe business is no different, as long as the drive is there, and targets are set, then there is no reason it cannot work.
February came, I had a set number of clients to work with and so the hard work started. I should mention that I also set some goals.
Seven months had passed, twenty projects small and large were finally completed, three new monthly clients on board and business was pretty good. I had managed to feed myself, look after myself and pay myself over the seven months and guess what? I had saved up and bought myself something.
On September 19th 2013 I touched down at the Changi Airport in Singapore. It was my first time out of Europe, so I didn't know what to expect but the 15 hour flight from Newcastle to Dubai, and then Dubai to Singapore really wasn't as bad as I had first thought it was going to be. Maybe the adrenaline and excitement were really pumping.
I reached the airport terminal, the place was absolutely packed with Formula One fans, it took us about an hour to get through custom's and the place was like a sauna, I've never felt such humidity like it in all my life.
After a small mishap with our taxi transfer, we finally got on our way to the hotel. As we made our way across the city I could just feel the energy of the people around me, and it was only around 3pm! We slowly approached the Marina Bay Sands hotel when I caught a glimpse of the pit straight and coloured run off areas. I remember being so excited, I just wanted to jump out and go and join everyone else by the track, unfortunately I had to wait, get to the hotel, check in, unpack and get organised.
One thing I had noticed about Singapore right away was how polite the people were. Whether I was in the airport or getting a taxi, it didn't matter, everyone seemed to be very helpful and smiley. As we arrived at the hotel we were greeted by a smart looking gentleman who took our bags for us. He pointed us in the direction of the reception where he would meet us with our bags a few moments after. The receptionist checked us in, and as a very kind gesture gave us a Formula One weekend goody bag that contained various items, a really nice touch I thought. After an hour or so of settling in, unpacking and what not, I still had a heap of energy and excitement! I wanted to get out and get to the track. By the time we left the hotel for a few hours walk, it was starting to get dark and the city lights were turning on!
Before leaving the receptionist kindly pointed us to the the MRT (Mass Rail Transfer) system, which is basically Singapore's version of the UK’s tube system. Fortunately this was just up the road from the hotel we were staying in, perfect!
Most people who know me, know that I’m not a huge fan of public transport. If I can drive somewhere myself, I will. I wasn't looking forward to the tube experience as I know what it's like in London, however, much to my surprise the Singapore MRT was so much different. The staff who worked at the MRT were extremely helpful. They approached us as we got into the MRT station and asked us various questions to help us on our way. They directed us to the ticket machines and informed us on how they worked and which zones we needed to take to get to the best places on the track for the whole weekend. There were no queues although there were thousands of people. Getting through each gate was so fast and efficient with our ‘ready to scan’ tickets. I think the UK needs to take note.
The wait for one MRT to the next was extremely quick, the longest we waited was 4 - 5 minutes, which was pretty impressive. Once on board the train it was extremely comfortable. The vehicle was extremely wide, and there was lots of space. It was so clean, pretty much as good as new.
As we departed the MRT at Gate 3, City Hall, the busiest part of the circuit, we joined a large bunch of people on the streets of Singapore eating food, drinking, laughing and in general having a great time. You could feel this crazy energy around you, a place where Formula One fans around the world had come together to indulge in what was to be an amazing, moving, championship winning weekend.
As we walked around City Hall, I noticed an opening to the Gate 3 entrance of the track, security were stood at the gates so I wasn't sure if we were allowed access. I thought I’d test the water and ask if we could pass through. They looked at us for a while and then smiled and let us in. At the other side of this tent would be my first real sight of the track, lit up under flood lights as I'd seen on TV since 2007.
“This place is amazing” I said to myself repeatedly as I walked down the side of the glowing track. I couldn't help but take photos of everything. Team staff were on their weekend routine track runs whilst I suffered with the 25 degree heat during the night in Singapore.
As we reached the end of the straight up to turn 21, we got our first decent view of the Singapore flyer, which towered over the track. In the distance, walking towards us was a certain blonde haired German. Yes, Sebastian Vettel was out on the track with his team mates inspecting the circuit (checking how he can go even faster). He looked so relaxed for someone who was going to be jumping into a 200mph+ car in twelve hours time.
We managed to find a way onto the track via a back entrance run off area (The same corner Hamilton and Webber hit each other back in 2010.) and we’re stood right there on the apex of turn 21. Sebastian walked passed me laughing and giggling with his team mates, the experience was surreal, I wish I had spoken to him now, but maybe that would have been rude, I mean, he was at work after all.
After a good night's sleep back at the hotel, we woke up and dashed for some early breakfast. From past experience at other Grand Prix's I've always found getting to the track early was the best idea. In this case too early! We arrived at the track when it was still closed. A bit eager! We went off for a few hours back into the city for a look around as our travel cards were full day passes. The passes we bought each day were so cheap, I think we paid around 9SGD (9 Singapore Dollars) for a day pass, which was around £4.20.
We found ourselves walking around the Marina Bay area for a few hours until the track opened for free practice. Singapore is home to some of the most beautiful architecture on the planet, and we were lucky enough to see them in the day from the ground, and at one of the highest points in Singapore, The Singapore Flyer. Before we left to go back to the track we decided to go and visit one of the most famous hotels in Singapore. The 5 star Fullerton Hotel located just off the Singapore River is a Luxary hotel where some of the richest people across the world stay when visiting Singapore. The photo's below from our visit say it all really.
Heading back to the track was pretty straight forward. We jumped on the closet MRT and made our way back to Gate One, which was the main gate for the track. The main grandstand and pit straight was located here, so this was the reason we wanted to start there.
The process of checking in to the track itself was so fast and efficient, no major long queues, just a quick bag check and pat down and a show of our pass amd we were on our way. From the looks of it, there was no traffic and no problems. Unlike some of my experiences from tracks such as Silverstone and Germany.
Once we were in we had a quick look around the entrance area. They had all sorts going on including racing simulators, "I was here" boards that we could sign, podiums for photos, lots of F1 Team Stores and loads of places to eat and drink. All of which were going to be very handy over the next few days.
Before heading to the Grandstand we hit the nearest food and drinks bar for some late lunch. Out of all the places we could have chosen from we decided to hit an Irish Bar for a massive burger and chips, along with one of the most delicious beers I have ever tasted. It was much needed in this intense 30 degree humid heat.
To the Grandstand! Free Practice was about to start and we needed to take our seats. If you have never been to a Grand Prix I'll let you in on a little something: Grandstand seats are always free of charge on a free practice day so if you have general admission you can still get access to the main Grandstand, I do this every year. In Singapore we found some perfect seats right at the end of the pit straight, an opportunity to take in the breathtaking sounds and movement of the cars right into turns one and two.
With a very close qualifying session done the Mercedes Petronas GP team look very close to the Redbull's. Maybe this was a winning weekend for Lewis or Nico? As the track went silent fans exited the stands in their thousands. We made our way back to the bar for food, drinks and some relaxing time in the sun.
I'd like to mention the surrounding areas of the Singapore circuit as its like nothing I've ever seen. For a built up city to have such a beautiful green landscape was so nice to see. All racing fans sat together on the grass chilling out, chatting, sleeping and taking in the atmosphere. Big screens were placed around the track so fans could see re-runs of the racing and they were placed in the most perfect positions. The Singaporeans obviously plan this event extremely well, because the whole race weekend I did not come across a single problem. Everything seemed to work so smoothly.
After some relax time and sight spotting around the track, we decided to watch the race from another part of the track. We'd start FP2 165 meter (540 feet) in the Singapore sky. The Singapore Flyer is free of charge and you can go on it as many times as you like, whenever you like. Before you go up the flyer you get a brief history, which is really interesting whilst you wait. Each cabin on the flyer accommodates about 20 - 25 people.
Night had fallen once again over Singapore and the view from the top of the Singapore Flyer was absolutely mind-blowing. The cars looked like something from Micro Machines, but the sound of the them remained exactly the same. From the top of the flyer you could hear the V8's roar and echo around the city. Being up there put into perspective the size of the city and the track. On the ground it doesn't seem too big but actually it spans quite a distance.
Once we had finished our ride on the flyer (about 30 minutes overall for full rotation). We decided to remain track side for the rest of the session, where we got to take in the sound and take some really good photographs close up.
Saturday arrived, probably the most important day of the weekend, qualifying day! Once again we made our way to the track quite early, leaving enough time to grab lots of water and food for the long day ahead! We arrived at the track just as it opened and had the pleasure of feasting our eyes and ears on the Porche Cup and Formula two cars. They were getting the track warmed up and some rubber down ready for the qualifying session later in the day in an essential part of Formula One, the more grip for the cars the better.
We found ourselves walking down towards the paddock entrance where we came across a good few familiar faces entering the track. Unfortunately the British boys both sneaked in the back entrance by the cars so we didn't get a chance for photos or signatures but we did manage a few from the other drivers and team principals.
After hanging around for a good hour and a half to catch a glimpse of the drivers, we made our way to 6 and 7 to get our seats for the qualifying session. Turns six and seven are at the Pedang area of the track where the cars come through a chicane after a high speed straight. Sitting here allowed us to get some close up shots of the cars as they down shifted through the two corners. Because we got there early we had a great view. Soon after the crowds started to build up so we were pretty much locked in until after the sessions had finished. Overall it was a great qualifying session, Vettel on top with the Mercedes Petronas GP close behind them.
The fun wasn't over for the night just yet. In just an hour's time The Killers were to take to the Pedang main stage to a crowd of thousands. The band opened with Mr. Bright Side under the open air of the Singapore Skyline., F1 fans were so hyped and excited it just made the whole experience a million times better. Later that weekend Rihanna and Justin Bieber went on to headline the stage, two artists that really didn't interest me. But to have such a great big line up on the same weekend deserves a round of applause for the organisers. Getting to the Gig and exiting the gig was so easy. I'm not so sure how many people are behind the organising of the Singapore Grand Prix but they do a fantastic job of absolutely everything.
After a great qualifying session for the Mercedes Petronas GP team I was quite optimistic on how race day could go. If we could get a car in front of the Redbull then the race could be totally different! There is also of course a good chance of a safety car during the race.
After a morning of the UFC (Jon Jones Vs Gustofson) back at the hotel, we made our way to the track for one last time. Because the race started at night we had to find something to do for a good few hours. First stop, racing simulators! Finish 1st and get through to a race session with porche cup drivers. Finish 2nd and win a prize from a selection of prizes. Finish 3rd and face the light reaction test to try and qualify for a prize. The race results? Damn it! I got 3rd. Onto the light reaction. The rules are to stand in front of the board and press the lights as soon as they light up. 25 lights in 30 seconds to qualify for a prize. My results of this were 21 :( I failed, I lost. Moving on...
After the simulators we had a good look around the shops as it was our last time to buy something if we wanted it. For the race, I bought myself a huge Lewis Hamilton flag. I guess it's something I can take back home as something to remind me of my trip. I also bought a few little goodies for family and friends.
Before the race started we had a quick glance at the Porche race and Formula Two's before heading for some food. We found a great sports bar at the track for some pre-race lunch. We came across a full team of DHL sponsors having lunch just a few tables over from us I find it amazing the amount of work and people that go into a single Formula One weekend, its fascinating, and that is why I love this sport.
Over lunch we discussed where we were going to sit for the race. During qualifying we spoke to a bunch of guys who had been to this race previously and they had advised us to get to our seats early, at least an hour and a half before lights out. We decided to make our way round to the final corner of the circuit. We had a great view of the final stretch of the track including the the pit lane and exit from the final corner.
As the drivers came around on their parade lap the crowds started to build up quite a bit. We got to our seats as the sky above us went from light, to dusk, to dark. Just to the left of us was the Marina Bay Sands hotel. They had even gone all out on this with projections of animated racing drivers and cars running right down the side of the 200 meter (656 feet) high building, incredible.
The engines fired up and the grid started to get busy.
Final preparations with track marshals were put in place and before we knew it the car's were coming round ready for lights out, a feeling of "calm before the storm" was in the air.
Lights go out and Rosberg beats Vettel into the first corner, Rosberg runs wide onto the apex and Vettel reclaim's first place. The drivers come round for the first lap and the crowd goes absolutely wild. Vettel's already opening up a lead. The race goes on Vettel continues to open up a huge lead until bam!! As expected we have a safety car. Danny Ricciardo runs wide just before the main grandstand tunnel at turn 18 and smashes into the wall.
As they come round for the restart Vettel backs up the field. Right in front of us he explodes as he steps on the accelerator and pulls out a lead down the pit straight into turn one. After 4 laps Vettel pulled out 10 second plus lead, no one was catching him. The race finished as follows:
As Vettel crossed the line to take another win for the season, the fireworks started flying over Singapore. A great result for Vettel, which pretty much seals the season for him as a four time F1 world champion.
After the race we ran up to the top end of the track so we could get some access to the track and podium area. I've never done a track invasion before so I didn't know what to expect. We were all stopped by marshals until it was safe to go down to the podium. All I can say was that it was an absolute stampede! Thousands of people running down the track being crushed, falling over, being trampled on and I even managed to lose my mate, who I later met up with back at the hotel as I couldn't find him anywhere!
Once down at the podium, everyone stood around waiting for the drivers to come out. I found a nice spot on the back wall of the pit straight where I stood and took photos up on the top of the crash barriers. The drivers came out along with Martin Brundle ready for the driver interviews. As Martin started the interview with Vettel booing started, which I thought was a little harsh. Martin stopped and told everyone to stop it as people were being rude. I truly feel Sebastian Vettel is one in a million. Thirty Two seconds ahead of the second placed man Fernando, what does that say to you?
After the interviews we were then ushered off to the exit by staff. What was great about this, was that we all had to walk anti-clockwise round the track to get to the exit. This allowed everyone to get a reel feel of what the drivers had just been through in terms of the tightness of the track and its challenges. Working back on my own I had so many thoughts going through my head, "imagine driving a car at 200mph around here", it sort of made the hair stand up on the back of my neck.
Walking back, I took so many photos and videos, you can see some of these below. I even managed to collect some of the tyre rubber from the track. Picking it from the ground was quite difficult, it was like hot chunks of black glue. I managed to put a handful in a bag to bring back home as a little reminder of the Singapore street circuit. I also stumbled across the crash site of Danny Ricciardo on my way out, the impact was quite small but the damage to the crash barrier was quite large.
After I got off the track I had a final walk around the Marina Bay taking in the sights. My final few hours in Singapore as tomorrow evening was home time.
Discussions went on late into the night back at the hotel. A lot was discussed about the race and the experiences. It's 100% something I would do again in the future. I didn't know what to expect when I arrived in Singapore, all I knew was it looks outstanding on the TV. So, my conclusion...
I've never in my whole life seen an event quite like this one. The set-up of it all seemed too perfect. The guys who organise this event need a medal. Everything from getting off the plane, to travelling around, to eating and drinking was all so simple. The race itself was so well set up, the organisation of people around the track was on the button. I never felt on my own, or lost.
If you're a Formula One fan then I highly recommend this race. I recommend Singapore as a place to visit in your lifetime as it has a fascinating culture and has some of the world's most beautiful architecture. This whole trip came from setting some basic targets and goals over 2013. If you don't have a goal or target to work to then you will never succeed in what you do. Don't do your job for nothing, have something in sight and aim for it.
If you have read this all of the way through (I'm not so sure many will) then I appreciate your time and I hope you enjoyed it. If you're travelling to Singapore at any time and need information or advice then please ask.
You can find a full gallery of photos and videos from the weekend on my Flickr account. All photos are in the Singapore Grand Prix 2013 section.
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