Commentary

Some speed bumps on road before deal is done

There is a question as to whether Singapore will host the Grand Prix after its contract with rights holder Formula One Administration ends next year.
There is a question as to whether Singapore will host the Grand Prix after its contract with rights holder Formula One Administration ends next year.PHOTO: EPA

The million-dollar question today, apart from who will win the ninth edition of the Singapore Grand Prix, is whether the Republic will host the race after its contract with rights holder Formula One Administration ends next year.

While no firm decision has been made regarding the contract extension, it would be wise to exercise prudence during the ongoing deliberations.

After all, the future of F1 is still somewhat uncertain after its US$8 billion (S$10.9 billion) takeover by United States group Liberty Media, which is likely to have a new blueprint for a sport some have called boring and predictable.

Speculation that F1 is looking at a 25-race calendar could also mean greater competition for the Singapore GP, which holds the honour of being the only full night race of the season - for now.

The dismal global economy has also slowed tourism growth here. Last year, tourism spending fell 6.8 per cent to $22 billion.

While no firm decision has been made regarding the contract extension, it would be wise to exercise prudence during the ongoing deliberations.

Amid this uncertain outlook, it is paramount that those involved extract maximum value from any prospective deal.

For one thing, future editions must be able to deliver both on and off the track to ensure they continue to generate the approximately $150 million incremental tourism receipts each year.

This will be challenging, since Singapore has raised the bar with its unique blend of on- and off-track entertainment.

 
 
 
 
 

Yuki Kuboshima, Deloitte Asia Pacific's managing partner for clients and industries, suggested earlier that organisers could build the race weekend around new non-sport themes such as automobile innovation and technology. Nanyang Business School's adjunct associate professor Lynda Wee wondered if organisers could leverage on Singapore's reputation as a food heaven to attract moderate F1 fans and their families.

Beyond tourism receipts, as Parliamentary Secretary for Education, and Trade and Industry Low Yen Ling said at an F1 community event last Friday, the race must continue to stand out by being "not only an event for the fastest but also an event for our community".

This means organising more community activities in the lead-up to race day, engaging those who would otherwise be unable to get close to the Marina Bay asphalt and keeping tickets affordable so Singaporeans ultimately take pride in the country hosting an F1 race.

The night race is without doubt one of the marquee events of the Singapore calendar. The sport has also benefited from a race which boasts a spectacular backdrop and a challenging circuit which many drivers enjoy racing on.

Any deal must allow for this partnership to stay mutually beneficial.

Chua Siang Yee

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on September 18, 2016, with the headline 'Some speed bumps on road before deal is done'. Print Edition | Subscribe