Singapore Grand Prix setting the standard
It has raised the bar for other F1 venues to emulate, says McLaren's CEO Brown
The Singapore Grand Prix has grown in stature since the first night race in 2008 and at the 11th edition that concluded on Sunday, McLaren chief executive officer Zak Brown said it has raised the bar for other Formula 1 venues to emulate.
Attendance has also grown an average of 3.5 per cent per year since 2009, with a total of 263,000 watching three days of racing that Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton won ahead of Red Bull's Max Verstappen and Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel.
Only the inaugural race saw a higher attendance of about 300,000. But, as it had cramped the circuit park, organisers Singapore GP reduced the number of tickets sold for subsequent editions to give racegoers more room to roam at the track.
It is difficult to knock down the Singapore Grand Prix, Brown told The New Paper.
"What the circuit does is pretty special. It is a great-looking circuit and it puts on a good race.
"I can't sit here and say there is anything missing in it. In fact, there are more (race organisers) in F1 that can learn from Singapore, rather than the other way round.
"But the sport can do better and give fans more, especially in terms of access to drivers and teams, and interaction with them. We should also allow more people to get closer to the cars."
In fact, there are more (race organisers) in F1 that can learn from Singapore, rather than the other way round.McLaren's CEO Zak Brown, praising the Singapore Grand Prix
Pirelli head of F1 and car racing Mario Isola said the night race is unique as it is designed chiefly with spectators in mind.
Fans, he said, can enjoy the race and entertainment on track, then dine and party at the many clubs in the city.
If there is any downside, Isola quipped, it is that drivers, teams and others in the Paddock can't feast on this fun: "We can't enjoy all that because after we are finished working, most restaurants and clubs in the city are closed."
Outside the race circuit, the Grand Prix Season Singapore (GPSS) helps to generate the buzz before the night race.
Jean Ng, director of sports at Singapore Tourism Board (STB), said this is a continuous operation to help make it better every year, adding: "The GPSS is an all-encompassing season of lifestyle events that can be enjoyed by everyone, including non-racegoers, beyond the race track and throughout the city."
Businesses have generally given the Singapore Grand Prix the thumbs up, but Dennis Foo, chairman and CEO of CityBar Holdings and a former Tourism Entrepreneur of the Year, said more could be done for them.
"I am not even a fan, but this night race is really the highlight of the F1 calendar and attracts premium travellers from all over the world," said Foo, who stepped down as president of the Singapore Nightlife Business Association in May and now plays an advisory role in it.
"Unlike other F1 races, our night race has become a great lifestyle event and this is the big pull.
"And we should capitalise on this and create an even greater festival around it, not only before, but after the F1 weekend as well in places like Orchard Road, Clarke Quay and Sentosa."
Foo said Clarke Quay, especially, did better this year than last year.
"In my view, it would be even better for F&B outlets if there were no restriction hours for them to operate during the F1 week."
Malaysia opted out of F1 after last year's race, making Singapore the only venue in South-east Asia for motor racing's premier championship.
The street race at the Marina Bay has also become a must-attend event for corporations, who use the hospitality suites to entertain their business partners here and in Asia.
In negotiations with Formula One Group (FOM) last year to renew the event's contract for another four editions, STB's Ng said organisers were aware that others in the region might want to emulate Singapore's Grand Prix success.
Three months ago, FOM CEO and chairman Chase Carey said they have been in talks with Vietnam for a street race in Hanoi.
But can the Singapore model be replicated there or elsewhere?
Brown said Singapore has done a good job in organising the Grand Prix, especially with the music and lifestyle content.
The McLaren boss added that Singapore is unique as it is also an important business destination in Asia. And this is one factor that pulls in the high-end crowd to the race.
"If you look at our partners, a lot of them are based here and have their Asian HQs in Singapore," said Brown.
"The night race is one of the biggest, if not arguably the biggest, race of the year. So there is a lot of business centre of gravity that takes place here.
"In terms of making it a premier Grand Prix, Singapore has set a very high standard for everyone to follow."