Magic nights

What’s Singapore like to watch?

When the Singapore Grand Prix joined the Formula 1 calendar for the first time in 2008, it was a truly unique spectacle: the first ever night race in the championship’s history. Since then, many other races have also been run in darkness but the race at Marina Bay still holds a special place in the hearts of F1 fans.
 
That means its return to the schedule for 2022, after a pandemic-induced absence of just over three years, has been eagerly awaited. The best news is that a new contract earlier this year means F1 will be going to Singapore until at least 2028. And with good reason: while many modern ‘street’ circuits are in-fact purpose-built and often permanent facilities, Singapore’s is an authentic original, on real, bumpy streets in the centre of one of the world’s busiest cities.

Like at most street circuits, overtaking is not easy but there have been some exciting races over the years. The proximity of the walls means that safety cars are likely to bunch up the field and strategy is often crucial to the outcome, as witnessed at the last race in 2019 when Sebastian Vettel was able to undercut his Ferrari team-mate Charles Leclerc to win. But more than anything, Singapore is simply an impressive show – as well as the toughest race of the year for the drivers.

What’s Singapore like to drive?

The challenge for the drivers in Singapore is less about specific corners or characteristics of the Marina Bay layout itself – although it’s still a demanding one to get right. Lewis Hamilton’s effort to take pole position in 2018 is one of the best of the modern era. But the real challenge comes in the physicality of a full race distance.

With the tunnel effect created by the barriers and the floodlit circuit, the track can appear pretty quick in places. But any straights are relatively short and with 23 corners packed into just over five kilometres, it’s one of the slowest laps of the season – usually second only to Monaco. Unlike Monaco, the race distance is not shortened to compensate, which means the Singapore race frequently runs up to and over the maximum two hours. Especially with the inevitable safety car interruptions.

The number of corners means the drivers get a proper workout during those two hours in what are often the most demanding conditions of the season. Even at night, ambient temperatures are high and so is the humidity in this part of Asia, meaning drivers can lose as much as three kilograms each during the race.

What’s Singapore like to visit?

If you like nightlife, you’ve come to the right place. With the race’s idiosyncratic insistence on sticking to European time, this is a night race in every sense of the word. It’s not uncommon to have dinner at 5am if you’re in Singapore to watch the race – and you’ll find plenty of places that stay open to serve it. The archetypal destination for a late drink is the iconic Raffles Hotel, which is where the Singapore Sling was invented (consisting mainly of gin and cherry brandy). Peanuts are served as a bar snack, and it’s a tradition there to discard the shells onto the floor, creating a uniquely crunchy carpet.

The Singapore Flyer is an observation deck that’s the height of a 42-storey building, offering an incredible perspective on the cityscape. In stark contrast to the metropolis, Singapore is also known for its wildlife and gardens: the Botanic Gardens (a UNESCO World Heritage site), Orchid Garden, Cloud Forest, and Zoo are all well worth a visit. And when you leave from Changhi Airport, don’t forget to check out the recently-opened Jewel, a dining and leisure concept that features the world’s tallest indoor waterfall, at 40 metres. To get around, the Singapore Mass Rapid Transit system is impeccably clean and efficient, while there’s also the Singapore Cable Car – which has been running since 1974.

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