Even Justin Bieber keen to ride on buzz

So much interest in Singapore race that 2014 ticket sales have begun

When you have something that is a success, everybody wants to be a part of it.

Even Justin Bieber.

That's right. The main reason the pop superstar is performing at the Padang on Monday, in the Formula One SingTel Singapore Grand Prix's first Closing Concert, is that he wants to.

But as Michael Roche - executive director of race organiser Singapore GP - noted, it could have turned out very differently.

"Our target was to do an opening concert on Thursday," he told The Straits Times yesterday, in an hour-long interview at the Marina Bay Street Circuit's Paddock Club Lifestyle Area.

"We were very close to having that but it slipped through at the last minute.

"The day that happened, Bieber's people called me and asked if there was any way we could get him onto the F1 ticket."

While serendipity certainly played a part in how things worked out, the 19-year-old Canadian heart-throb's interest in being a part of it speaks volumes of how far the sport's only full night race has come in five short years.

"This event has become a beacon of what Singapore's about," said Roche.

He knows this more than most. A native of Yorkshire, he has lived in the Republic for the better part of 24 years but on his returns to Britain, conversations inevitably turn to the race.

"Those magnificent shots of the city, the marina and all our buildings," he listed. "People say to me, this is made in Hollywood; you can't possibly live there."

The iconic visuals of cars racing down the pit straight with the Singapore Flyer twinkling in the background, however, tell just half the story.

When asked what the low points of his F1 adventure have been, Roche - one of the four men who entered into hosting rights negotiations with Formula One Management in 2006 - quipped: "I've had a million of them."

"It's just an emotional roller coaster; even when I'm at home with my family, my mind is churning with hundreds of things."

But the success which the Singapore race is enjoying has exceeded his wildest expectations.

Given that Roche has twice handled Michael Jackson in his capacity as managing director of concert promoter Live Nation Lushington, that is saying something.

"The proof is in the pudding," the 55-year-old father of one said. "The buzz is still there, tickets keep on selling and people want to buy them earlier."

Indeed, even with this year's race yet to be run, Singapore GP earlier this month opened ticket sales for the 2014 edition.

This, in light of 2013 ticket sales exceeding last year's total attendance of 84,317.

"We're just about coming to the limit of what we can do," he acknowledged. "Every day, I'm looking if I can add 20 people here or 50 there but, at some point, you've got to say no.

"We push the boundaries but our first priority is always crowd safety. And there's no point in admitting more people if they can't be fed or go to the toilet."

It is this philosophy of quality over quantity, which encapsulates the Singapore Grand Prix's Paddock Club experience.

With two days to go before the track action gets under way, finishing touches are still being done in the exclusive area.

However, by Friday, it will be ready to host 4,000 VIPs - comprising business leaders, heads of state and celebrities such as Boy George, Linkin Park and Katy Perry - each day.

Beginning with a flute of G.H. Mumm champagne handed to them at the entrance, guests can then choose to adjourn to the spa or any one of eight bars and restaurants.

Among them, a station helmed by three Michelin-starred chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten, as well as world-renowned Japanese restaurant Nobu.

This year's Paddock Club will also see the debut of Marina Bay Seafood, complete with its array of fresh seafood on ice, as well as two supersuites.

With a capacity of 400, each boasts a farmer's table with cheeses, pates and cold cuts, a live carving station with legs of Wagyu beef, as well as bars with mixologists serving cocktails.

These features, Roche stressed, are part of Singapore GP's efforts to give the guests something new and exciting to look out for at every turn.

"We've learnt that people don't want to spend all their time in the same seat for three days," he said.

"They want to say, there's an amazing margarita bar over here or over there, a fantastic cocktail bar just popped up."

And that objective of constantly giving guests something to be excited about, is the biggest challenge that Roche faces.

"Every year, when we open our doors on Friday, I go to the bar, look around and ask myself, 'How the heck have we done it?' It's quite ridiculous."

That feeling of satisfaction does not last long, however. After all, as good as that year may be, the following year will have to be better. "Even right now, we're already thinking ahead to next year," Roche noted.

fabiusc@sph.com.sg