Formula One's crown jewel continues to sparkle even after 11 years

Besides the race itself, which drew 263,000 fans over three days, the Singapore Grand Prix also featured a slew of entertainment and hospitality offerings.
Besides the race itself, which drew 263,000 fans over three days, the Singapore Grand Prix also featured a slew of entertainment and hospitality offerings.ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

2018 race draws 263,000 fans - second-highest turnout in its history

SINGAPORE - There are no certainties in motor racing, but the Singapore Airlines Singapore Grand Prix might be as good as it gets for Formula One (F1) - a crown jewel of a race with lasting appeal even after 11 years.

This year's race, won in style by Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton, drew 263,000 fans over three days. It was the second-highest turnout in the event's history, behind only the 300,000 fans who attended the inaugural edition in 2008.

Crowd numbers have gone up two years in a row after falling 15 per cent to 219,000 in 2016.

Promoter Singapore GP attributed the increase to its entertainment and hospitality offerings. Besides the new 3,000 sq m Twenty3 at Turn 23, which formed a cluster of three restaurants, four bars and the two-storey Apex Lounge, this year's musical acts included British singer Dua Lipa - the 23-year-old became the youngest female artist to have a music video reach one billion views on YouTube in February with her hit single New Rules - and top Dutch deejay Martin Garrix.

"It's my first time at F1. I went for Martin Garrix as he's been my favourite artist since 2014. His music is very unique," said second-year Nanyang Technological University engineering student Cheng Xinwei, 22. "I really like Dua Lipa too. I'd go back again if there are other similar artists in the future."

Choosing the right type of artists who are not the sort "your traditional F1 fan follows, but appeal to a younger demographic" was a smart strategy, said Mr James Walton, Deloitte South-east Asia's sports business group leader.

  • 263,000 Crowd attendance at this year's night race, which is in its 11th year.

    219,000 Crowd numbers in 2016, when the figures fell by 15 per cent.

    300,000 Number of fans who attended the inaugural edition in 2008.

    >1.1m Number of tweets which included the hashtag #SingaporeGP recorded during the Sept 10-17 race week, up from 970,000 and 810,000 in the past two years respectively.

Choosing the right type of artists who are not the sort 'your traditional F1 fan follows, but appeal to a younger demographic' was a smart strategy, said Mr James Walton, Deloitte South-east Asia's sports business group leader.

Data from Twitter appears to reflect the success of the Republic's efforts to engage millennials.

A tweet from British band Oasis' former lead singer Liam Gallagher last Saturday racked up more than 1,000 retweets and 14,000 likes, and was outpaced only by tweets from race-winner Hamilton and the official F1 account.

More than 1.1 million tweets which included the hashtag #SingaporeGP were recorded during the Sept 10-17 race week, up from 970,000 and 810,000 in the past two years respectively.

The night race has retained its allure in spite of uneven viewership numbers across F1 and for other Asian races. Annual F1 television viewership has dropped in the decade of the Singapore race's existence, falling from 600 million in 2008 to 352.3 million last year.

Malaysia staged its last F1 race at Sepang last year after 19 editions, citing a sharp decline in terms of TV audiences and spectators. It drew a record low of 88,000 in 2016.

The last five years have also witnessed India and South Korea dropping off the F1 calendar.

Haas driver Romain Grosjean said last week: "It makes some great footage, and clearly Singapore is one of the most beautiful races you can have by night. It's pretty awesome. It provides something a bit different on the calendar."

Singapore certainly offers a unique experience, noted Mr Walton. He called it the "the complete holiday package right in the middle of the city", where "you could be in a theme park in the morning, shop in the afternoon and then watch F1 at night. That's something a lot of other races can't offer".

 
 
 

For businesses near the Marina Bay Street Circuit, the race routinely brings not only an influx of foreign tourists, but also a string of road closures that affect their earnings.

Restaurant Supply & Demand at the Esplanade saw an increase of around 30 per cent in its restaurant takings over the F1 weekend, but things were quiet on the weekdays as the road closures deterred customers, said its supervisor Jacquelyn De Los Reyes, 26.

Halal eatery Noosh's manager, Mr Joel Santiago, 36, said he had to turn away regulars who made reservations because they did not have the F1 pass needed to enter the area.

"It was the same situation last year. The closures are good for F1, but not so for other businesses."

• Additional reporting by Cara Wong

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 18, 2018, with the headline 'F1's crown jewel continues to sparkle even after 11 years'. Print Edition | Subscribe