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SingTel Singapore Grand Prix 2013

Singapore still Formula One's crown jewel: Ecclestone

S'pore's position safe, Ecclestone assures, even as Bahrain plans switch to night race

Published on Sep 22, 2013 8:18 AM
 
Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone (right) chatting with hotelier Ong Beng Seng, who was instrumental in bringing F1 to Singapore in 2008. -- ST PHOTO: CAROLINE CHIA

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 Speedweek.com, 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."

fabiusc@sph.com.sg

Background story

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 Speedweek.com