Saturday 21 September 2013

F1 revs up economy as it roars into town

Advance flight bookings up 12.6% as more fans arrive earlier for event
By Melissa Lin And Chia Yan Min, The Straits Times, 19 Sep 2013

FIVE years after the Grand Prix was first held here, the glamorous event is turbo-charging the local economy more than ever.

New tourism data shows a 12.6 per cent spike in advance flight bookings for the Formula One race, now into its sixth year here. A surge in last-minute bookings is also expected.

And motor sport fans flooding here for the event from tomorrow to Sunday are arriving ahead of the race earlier than before.

The data was compiled by technology and travel firm Amadeus, and market research and consulting company Forward Data SL.

Then there is the proliferation of spin-off events - timed to coincide with the big race.

Large corporations are more eager than ever before to schmooze with clients against the dramatic backdrop of the night grand prix.

Events held around this weekend include the Russia-Singapore Business Forum, Singapore Summit, Deutsche Bank Women in Asian Business Conference and the inaugural World Engineers Summit.

In previous years, the number of visitors was estimated to be 40,000 for the race weekend.

The tourism data shows that while most visitors are touching down today or tomorrow, about 29 per cent more visitors have arrived three days before the first qualifying race than last year.

Australians take top spot as the race's biggest fans, accounting for 17 per cent of bookings, followed by those from Britain at 8 per cent, and Indonesia at 6 per cent.

With the night race coinciding with public holidays in Hong Kong and South Korea, more tourists from those places are flocking here for the long weekend. Bookings from Hong Kong have shot up by 37 per cent from last year, while those from Seoul are up by a staggering 241 per cent.

The race gives the economy a big boost. Over the last five years, each race weekend has attracted about $150 million in extra tourism receipts, according to the Ministry of Trade and Industry.

Big winners include local small and medium-sized enterprises, which account for about 80 per cent of race organisation work.

From 2008 to last year, the race attracted 430 million television viewers worldwide in total.

The spin-off events are nearly as valuable as the big race, said Ms Jeannie Lim, Singapore Tourism Board executive director for exhibitions, conferences, conventions and meetings. "Through the years, Singapore's exciting F1 race and world-class entertainment acts have also become prime opportunities for many multinational companies based in Singapore to engage top clients for work as well as for a thrilling evening out in town," she said.

BCG Singapore managing director Jeffrey Chua said even after five years, the race still ranks very highly in global TV viewership and attendance. The consultancy was hired by the Government in 2010 to analyse F1's costs and benefits. "The longer the race has been held, the more 'sticky' the impact has been," said Mr Chua.

UOB economist Francis Tan said the spillover effects on the rest of the economy continue to be significant. "People associate Singapore with the F1 and it has helped with putting our brand out there to millions of people around the world... The value of this is hard to quantify but contributes to indirect benefits," he said.

Still F1's crown jewel
S'pore's position safe, Ecclestone assures, even as Bahrain plans switch to night race
By Fabius Chen, The Sunday Times, 22 Sep 2013

Its position as the only full night race on the Formula One calendar may be under threat, with Bahrain Grand Prix organisers also planning to hold their race under the lights next year.

However, the SingTel Singapore Grand Prix's status as one of the sport's marquee events remains undiminished, according to F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone.

When asked yesterday by The Sunday Times if Bahrain's night-race intentions would steal the Republic's thunder, Ecclestone's reply was a simple "no".

"Why should it?" the 82-year-old continued. "Yours is a fantastic event.

"Just because it's a night race doesn't mean anything. Don't worry about it."

Ecclestone is not the only seasoned F1 observer who believes that Bahrain's move - made to mark the race's 10th edition - poses little threat to the Singapore race's reputation.

Mathias Brunner, F1 editor of, noted how the Marina Bay Street Circuit's locale - right in the heart of a bustling business hub - makes for "a dream combination".

"No other venue combines a superb city, where tourists can have a look around town and businessmen can have meetings all day long, with the race," noted Brunner, who has covered over 400 grands prix.

The Bahrain race, on the other hand, takes places in a dedicated motor-sports facility located in the middle of a desert.

"It's zero competition," Brunner stressed. "Tell me, how many businessmen fly to Bahrain for meetings unless they specialise in the Middle East? I don't know too many."

Fans have also taken notice of the race. From 2008 to last year, the Singapore GP attracted 430 million television viewers worldwide in total.

F1 drivers, too, have waxed lyrical about the race, despite its physically demanding nature.

In the heat and humidity, drivers are challenged to stay hydrated throughout one of the longest circuits on the F1 calendar. Last year, the race even exceeded the two-hour limit and the last two laps were called off, after numerous safety-car deployments.

"Physically, it's the toughest race for sure," remarked Caterham's Charles Pic.

But all these factors just contribute to the unique nature of the sport's first night race.

"It's different here," triple world champion Sebastian Vettel noted earlier this week.

"We haven't been here a long time but it feels like a classic already."

Like the German, McLaren's Jenson Button has competed in every edition of the race since its inaugural 2008 edition.

"I remember the first time; it seemed incredible to think that we could hold an F1 race at night," said the 2009 world champion.

"It's a unique spectacle - one that I think is brilliant for F1. In fact, the Singapore Grand Prix is one of the wonders of modern sport."

As far as ringing endorsements of the night race go, however, one need look no further than the sport's head honcho.

It was Ecclestone who in 2008 labelled it "the crown jewel of F1" and, when asked yesterday if that honour remains, the Briton's answer left little room for doubt.

"Yeah," he said. "Sure."

Bernie on Bahrain taking Singapore's shine away...

Why should it? Yours is a fantastic event. Just because it's (Bahrain) a night race doesn't mean anything. Don't worry about it.

- Bernie Ecclestone, F1 supremo

An F1 journalist's view...

It's zero competition. Tell me, how many businessmen fly to Bahrain for meetings unless they specialise in the Middle East? I don't know too many.

- Mathias Brunner, F1 editor of

2,500 get chance to walk on F1 pit lane
Visitors enjoy opportunity to catch a glimpse of the cars
By Lee Yulin, The Straits Times, 20 Sep 2013

FOR the first time in the history of the SingTel Singapore Grand Prix, ordinary folks got to walk on the most famous stretch of the Marina Bay Street Circuit - the pit lane.

Crowds five to six deep thronged outside the Formula One teams' pit garages past 10pm last night, treasuring the rare opportunity to catch a glimpse of the fastest cars on earth.

The Pit Lane experience, which also saw the circuit park host the 2,500 visitors for the first time on a Thursday, gave them a small taste of what happens during the race weekend. In past races, only Paddock Club pass holders - who include heads of states, celebrities and business leaders - get to visit the Pit Lane.

This year, however, race organiser Singapore GP held a ballot from May 28 to Aug 22 via its website, which allowed ordinary folk to also share in the experience, albeit without the actual racing.

The food stalls were in full swing, as were the merchandise outlets. On the Village Stage, a band played after Ms Shannon Lim was crowned this year's SingTel Grid Girl.

Mr Derrick Tan, a 41-year-old engineer who was there with his family, said: "The kids love it."

He had attended the first race in 2008 but had not been back to the circuit until last night. Overall, he rated the Pit Lane experience as "not bad".

Another visitor, eight-year-old Ryan Levitt, was "super excited" by the experience. The American had visited the circuit with his parents previously, but had never walked along the pit lane, where the cars enter and exit garages.

The event was given the thumbs-up by Second Minister for Trade and Industry S. Iswaran. Reaching out to Singaporeans, he said, was "a very important part of our overall effort". He welcomed the fact that "we were able to bring more people into the circuit park and enjoy the atmosphere".

He said that while the outreach is done every year, there has been a particular focus on schools this time around.

He also added that the race, now into its sixth edition, is enjoying a good response and that "prospects for another year of strong tourism spending associated with the event are quite good".

"Tickets sales are even better than last year, and still orders are coming in," he said, adding that crowd figures are "well over 84,000 per day".

He revealed that visitor arrivals for the race would exceed the 40 per cent mark "significantly", but did not elaborate on which markets contributed to the growth.

"In terms of receipts, it remains to be seen (if they will also increase) but you would expect that, with a stronger visitor arrival, then you would expect the spend to rise as well."

Vettel wins Singapore Grand Prix
By Lee Yulin, The Straits Times, 22 Sep 2013

SEBASTIAN Vettel became the first man to win the SingTel Singapore Grand Prix for the third time on Sunday night.

The Red Bull ace, who had a perfect drive from pole to chequered flag, finished the 61 laps after 1hr 59min 13.132sec, 32.627sec ahead of second-placed Fernando Alonso of Ferrari. The winning margin is the biggest in this F1 season.

Vettel is now 60 points ahead of Alonso in the drivers' standings, with just six races left.

The outstanding performance of the night has to be that of Kimi Raikkonen. The Lotus man, who is the 2007 world champion, had qualified a poor 13th after being bothered by a back problem which required pain-killing injections on Saturday. The Finn finished third to stand on the podium in Singapore for the first time.

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