By Kurt Ganapathy
Featured photo: Facebook/Singapore Grand Prix
As it stands, nothing is set in stone for the future of Formula 1 in Singapore, although there have been “positive discussions”. Here’s our case for why an extension agreement should be signed ASAP.
1. It puts Singapore on the map
Back in 2010, I visited a school in Fiji. It was in a small, simple village far from the five-star resorts and tree-lined beaches the island country is known for. Thinking that few Singaporeans would’ve made it there before, I asked a group of students if they could find Singapore on a world map. Without hesitation, a young girl pointed to the end of Peninsular Malaysia. When I asked her how she knew, she smiled and said, “Rugby sevens.” This was four years after Singapore had last hosted a World Rugby Sevens Series tournament, but the love of rugby in Fiji ensured that we were still remembered there. We underestimate how far our name travels when we host major sporting events.
It’s tempting to assess the Singapore Grand Prix in terms of ticket sales and tourist receipts, but its real value is more intangible. When we try to pinpoint the milestones that led to Singapore’s rise as a city the rest of the world wants to visit, the unveiling of landmarks like Marina Bay Sands and Gardens by the Bay would top most lists. But I think the starting point was 2008, when Formula 1 first came to town, framing the city skyline in a three-day tourism campaign broadcast to a global audience.
2. It’s part of Singapore’s emergence as a sporting capital
There are many global cities but there are fewer world sporting capitals – London, Melbourne and New York are the main members of the exclusive club, joined by Los Angeles, Paris and Tokyo. Singapore isn’t quite at that level, but we’re getting there.
Since joining the Formula 1 fold, Singapore has hosted the WTA Finals, the International Champions Cup and the Premier League Asia Trophy while the World Rugby Sevens Series returned to our shores in 2016. A Singapore Grand Prix could technically continue outside Formula 1 – like its previous incarnations in the ’60s and ‘70s – but it wouldn’t be the same. Losing Formula 1 would be a step back from our place at the table of world sport.
3. It’s a key race near the end of the Formula 1 season
The Singapore Grand Prix’s September dates place it at a significant point in the latter part of the Formula 1 season; an enviable position to occupy. By the time the drivers arrive, enough battles have been fought for the tone of the year’s competition to be set. We have a good idea of who the favorite is and we know what his rivals must do to catch him; or we find ourselves in the middle of a classic dogfight.
This year is no different – the 2017 season has been a see-sawing contest between Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel, two drivers who have won seven of the last nine World Drivers’ Championships. The two will duel in Singapore with Hamilton leading the standings by just three points after back-to-back wins in Belgium and Italy.
4. It would be Southeast Asia’s only Formula 1 race
While the future of the Singapore Grand Prix is still uncertain, the future of the Malaysian Grand Prix has been settled. It’s over. The 19th running of the Malaysian Grand Prix as a Formula 1 event next month will be its last. If Singapore sticks around, it would fly the flag for the region in 2018 and enjoy the many potential benefits that entails.
5. The off-track entertainment
At the Singapore Grand Prix, the entertainment headliners are as much of a draw as the race itself. Calvin Harris, Ariana Grande and The Chainsmokers are 2017’s stars, and we’ve previously welcomed the likes of Bon Jovi, Katy Perry, Kylie Minogue, Queen + Adam Lambert and Robbie Williams – we could go on, but you get the idea.
It could also be argued that Singapore’s increased prominence in the last decade, courtesy of Formula 1, has had an impact on our concert calendar as a whole. Before 2008, big gigs in Singapore were few and far between, but now, there’s a massive show practically every month, if not every other week. We even have the privilege of deciding to see an act the next time they’re in town because we know they’ll probably be back before too long.
6. Without Formula 1, we’d have one less thing to complain about
With every edition of the Singapore Grand Prix, the finest exponents of our national pastime come to the fore. Road closures, the impact on businesses in the Marina Bay area, everyday Singaporeans being overlooked in favor of “elites”, tourists and “FTs” (short for “foreign talents”) – each complaint king and queen has their talking points finely polished by now, ready for their annual pageant. What are we going to do if we no longer have the “inconveniences” of the Singapore Grand Prix to discuss? Generic rants about the weather aren’t as intellectually stimulating.
7. We’d miss the buzz
When you look past the complaints, you’ll feel the buzz around the city in the months leading up to Grand Prix season. We see the lights go up and the stands being built. We receive invites to race-themed events around town – some glamorous, some outlandish and some typical champagne-soaked shindigs.
We hear “Singapore” enunciated in the varied accents of cable news presenters and Formula 1 commentators. We get a different perspective on the place we call home. We realize we’re part of something bigger with the eyes of more than 80 million people looking in our direction.
Tickets for the Formula 1 Singapore Airlines Singapore Grand Prix are available from $78 via the Singapore Grand Prix website.