Singapore should remain in Formula 1, says son of Monaco GP organiser
It's a marquee event and benchmark, says Monaco GP organiser's son Hajjar
The Ferrari resurgence at the 12th Singapore Airlines Singapore Grand Prix attracted a total of 268,000 fans to the Marina Bay Street Circuit over the three-day weekend to watch Sebastian Vettel return to his winning ways.
The four-time world champion arrested his 22-race drought since the Belgian GP in August last year and led teammate Charles Leclerc to the chequered flag for a 1-2 finish for the Prancing Horse on Sunday.
World championship leader Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes was relegated to fourth after he was unable to pass Red Bull's Max Verstappen.
Since hosting the inaugural night race that attracted over 300,000 people in 2008, the event has grown from strength to strength. Overcrowding prompted organisers to trim capacity down to around 280,000 the following year and, based on this, attendance for the latest edition is a record.
As one of the major highlights of the Formula 1 season, corporations also ride on it to execute their brand activation that pulls in leading captains of industries from around the world.
These set the stage for next year, when Singapore is due to begin negotiations for a third extension of the night race beyond its current contract that expires in 2021.
Ruchdi Hajjar, a financial consultant and partner of wealth and asset management company SGMC Capital, told The New Paper that Singapore "definitely" should remain in F1.
"It is another yearly showcase on a global scale that demonstrates what Singapore is capable of," he added. "It has become a marquee F1 event and it would be a pity if we don't have it any more."
The 38-year-old is an old hand in Formula 1. His father, who he is named after, is managing director of Automobile Club de Monaco, organisers of the Formula 1 race in the principality.
He grew up helping Ruchdi Hajjar Sr in the Monte Carlo event and has rubbed shoulders with F1 greats like Ayrton Senna, Alain Prost, Nelson Piquet and Michael Schumacher.
"Singapore's night race is certainly becoming a benchmark on how to run such a complex show in a perfect way," said Hajjar, who has lived here since 2009 and is also owner and founder of The Ring Boxing Community Gym at Kim Yam Road.
"Bringing together the race, entertainment, safety, TV images, Singapore organisers have mastered how to put one of the most impactful races on the calendar."
David Sonenscher, managing director of Kuala Lumpur-based Motorsports Asia that organises the Porsche Carrera Cup support race on the Marina Bay Street Circuit, wants to see Singapore remain permanently with F1.
"The Singapore Grand Prix is good for business, because companies I do business with see it as a showcase event to entertain sponsors at the very best levels," said the 56-year-old London native, who is also the chief operating officer of UK's TCR company that runs various touring car championships in Europe and Asia.
"Since everyone was in Singapore last week, I was able to present my business proposals for next year to all of them."
Agreeing, Hajjar who also met business leaders at the paddock during the race weekend, added: "Singapore offers a very powerful network and industrial platform.
"A lot of meetings are held prior, during and after the race to discuss business opportunities here, as Singapore is a base for ventures in the region."
The night race has also won over fans. Marilyn S Lee, who watched Vettel, Leclerc, Verstappen and Hamilton battle for podium place from the Padang Grandstand, said Sunday's race was by far the most exciting in the series.
"I always look forward to the Grand Prix but this time, there was a lot of overtaking and it is one of the best races I've seen here," said the 30-year-old psychologist, who has been at every Singapore GP since 2008.
Sonenscher said that in terms of value for the ticket-holder, Singapore is peerless and has been good for Formula 1.
"When I first attended the race, my instinct then - and now - is that the night race is a game-changer.
"Sure, every race has its ups and downs, but organisers here have done an incredible job for fans. The fact that you have one ticket and can walk around the track and do different things and be entertained, that's unmatched and pretty hard to beat."