Major circuit revamp if Singapore Grand Prix extends beyond 2021

The Float@Marina Bay, which houses the Bay Grandstand for the Singapore Grand Prix, will be closed from next year for the construction of NS Square, which is expected to be ready by 2025. ST FILE PHOTO
The Float@Marina Bay, which houses the Bay Grandstand for the Singapore Grand Prix, will be closed from next year for the construction of NS Square, which is expected to be ready by 2025. ST FILE PHOTO

Negotiations with Formula One commercial rights holder Liberty Media are expected to begin next year to extend the Singapore night race beyond 2021.

And for the first time, a major item of discussion will be the realignment of the track, a 300m stretch from Turns 16 to 19 along The Float@Marina Bay.

The floating platform facility is scheduled to be closed next year for construction of the NS Square. It is slated to be ready by 2025, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said in a Facebook post on Sept 9.

If the Singapore Grand Prix is extended, the temporary closure of the Float@Marina Bay will affect the Bay Grandstand, which seats 27,000.

Under the current four-year contract, the 12th edition this weekend and the next two races will continue to run in the present configuration of the 5.063km Marina Bay Street Circuit.

Replying to queries last week, Singapore Tourism Board (STB) executive director for sports, Jean Ng, said the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) and the STB were "consulted on" the redevelopment plans before Dr Ng's announcement.

The Government, through the MTI and STB, funds 60 per cent of the $135 million bill to host the night race each year, while promoter Singapore GP foots the rest.

With a three-day pass priced at $298, the Bay Grandstand could generate up to $8 million in ticket sales this year.

If Singapore extends the deal to host the race, STB is confident that the track realignment and shortfall in ticket revenues will be resolved.

Said Ng: "MTI/STB will work with the race promoter and government agencies to review adjustments to the Marina Bay Street Circuit should there be an extension of the race beyond 2021."

Should that happen, this will be the first major adjustment to the 23-turn circuit since the inaugural race in 2008.

"The fans are really going to miss the Bay Grandstand because the view from there is awesome," said Singapore driver Yuey Tan, who will try to extend his grip on the Porsche Carrera Cup Asia pro-am championship, a support race for the Singapore Airlines Singapore GP.

He feels the obvious realignment is to connect Turns 16 and 19 along Raffles Avenue to create a much faster straight from the current top speed of 230kmh.

Previously, only minor revisions were made, such as turning the corner known as Singapore Sling (Turns 11 and 12) in front of Victoria Concert Hall into a conventional left turn in 2013. Two years later, tweaks were made to reduce speeds at Turn 11 and widen the apex of the Turn 13 hairpin.

STB said the F1 organisers will be able to work on the issues only when the architectural design of the winning bid for NS Square is made known in the second quarter of next year.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 17, 2019, with the headline Major circuit revamp if Singapore Grand Prix extends beyond 2021. Subscribe