Shortly after that special lap from Lewis Hamilton, the qualifying session ended and the grandstands emptied into the Singapore night. I headed towards the Marina to take in the spectacular night-time views across the Bay. Truly spectacular views in every direction and they flattered semi-skilled photographers like me.
The race organisers had also arranged a lot of post-F1 entertainment, from up and coming local artists and entertainers to global supergroups like ‘The Killers’ and ‘Simply Red’. They also had the legendary hip-hop group, The Sugarhill Gang in the lineup.
It was a party atmosphere I will not forget in a hurry.
Sunday, Race Day.
Sunday started in a leisurely fashion. Gym, coffee ‘n cake and some lounging about before lunch at a very interesting restaurant in Chinatown; Hawker Chan. Hawker Chan started as a humble market stall in Singapore and is now a fast-growing Michelin-star restaurant. Hawker Chan is famous not only for the quality of its food (hence the Michelin star) but for its prices, it serves the cheapest Michelin-star meal in the world.
Our delicious lunch cost the princely sum of 30 Hong Kong dollars.
Lunch over, we headed to the track and once again I marvelled at the efficiency of it all; hotel to grandstand seat in one hour or less. I know of no other track where this is even remotely possible for sensible money.
As we waited for the start of the race I observed my fellow race fans and they were a very diverse bunch, there were the hardcore fans, the casual fans, the I-live-in-Singapore-and-got-free-tickets-so-I-had-to-come fans and especially fascinating, the glamorous fans, dripping in designer shoes, bags and jewellery and clad in the obligatory Ferrari tank-top or vest. They though, were clearly more interested in posing for social media selfies and facebook/snapchat live. Sigh
Then it was time for the parade lap and the start of the race. If you have never watched an F1 night race live, I seriously urge you to consider the Singapore round. It is absolutely spectacular. The cars glinting under the floodlights as they raced at impossible speeds with a backdrop of the night-time Singapore skyline. Words and pictures do not do it justice.
The race got off to an exciting start as Sebastian Vettel, used the superior grunt of his Ferrari to blast past Max Verstappen who had qualified ahead of him just before the safety car was inevitably deployed for a first lap crash. There has been a 100% safety car deployment rate at this particular track.
The race settled down after that and Max jumped the Ferrari at the first and only pit stop in which Ferrari adopted a curious strategy and fitted Ultrasoft tyres on Vettel’s car. That was the end of his challenge as he had to nurse those tyres to the finish.
Remember those ‘social media’ spectators I mentioned earlier? Well, they were particularly irritating during the race, coming and going while taking yet more selfies and obstructing the view. The stewards and security staff were quite ineffective in controlling this simply because they were far too polite (everyone is polite in Singapore) and these ‘social media’ spectators largely ignored them.
Lewis Hamilton duly won the race and extended his lead in the championship leaving Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari to ponder the distinct possibility of another title-less year.
As we made our way back to the Raffles Place MRT station via the Marina and the uber luxurious Fullerton hotel with its fleet of classic Rollers lined up in front, I continued to take pictures and drink in the sounds, sights and atmosphere of this very special place and occasion. One word kept popping into my head:
Tomorrow we board another technical marvel, the 138,000 ton cruise liner, the Voyager of The Seas, for the next leg of our Far Eastern mini-tour.
To be continued.