Singapore F1 race in Sept cancelled

Singapore GP says it is unable to proceed with race because of Covid-19 restrictions

Singapore GP said it was unable to proceed with the race due to the prohibitions imposed. PHOTO: ST FILE

In the biggest blow to the country's sports calendar, this year's Singapore Airlines Singapore Grand Prix has been cancelled, Formula One and race promoters Singapore GP said yesterday.

The announcement on the Sept 20 night race had been widely expected given the severe disruptions from the coronavirus pandemic both locally and internationally.

Singapore GP said it was unable to proceed due to the prohibitions imposed on access and construction of the 5.063km Marina Bay Street Circuit. Works, which normally start in May, have not begun and will not be completed in time for the race in three months.

Other challenges include ongoing restrictions on mass gatherings - last year's race drew a three-day total of 268,000 spectators - and travel due to Covid-19. After all, 40 per cent of the Singapore race attendees are from overseas, while the event also boasts top international music acts that form part of the unique night race experience.

Singapore GP deputy chairman Colin Syn called the decision to cancel the event "difficult" and said the last few months were "extremely challenging on all fronts", but added that the health and safety of all involved are the main priorities.

The Ministry of Trade and Industry and Singapore Tourism Board (STB) fund 60 per cent of the $135 million race costs each year, with Singapore GP footing the rest.

The race weekend contributes about $130 million annually in tourism receipts.

The race cancellation follows the axing of other sporting events here like golf's HSBC Women's World Championship, the Singapore Badminton Open and football's International Champions Cup.

The Republic is still in its first phase of reopening after the circuit breaker. Sports facilities remain closed but are expected to reopen in the second phase, which could start before the end of this month.

The HSBC Singapore Rugby Sevens, which drew 57,000 fans last year, was moved from April to October. It is the next big sports event in doubt, given that it takes place three weeks after the Singapore race.

SIA, which has backed the Singapore race since 2014 and last year extended its title sponsorship until next year, told The Straits Times it supported the decision but did not comment on the implications of the cancellation on its contract.

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The airline's partnership for the first two years was worth between $10 million and $15 million annually, and reportedly $10 million a year for the next two years. The value of the 2018-2019 term and the present one is not known.

Besides the Singapore race, F1 said it will pull the plug for races in Japan and Azerbaijan, bringing the number of races called off this year to seven after Australia, Monaco, France and the Netherlands were dropped earlier.

The season was originally scheduled to flag off in Melbourne on March 15 but is set to make a belated start with closed-door races in Austria on July 5 and 12. Such "ghost races" - without fans - will be the norm for the eight races that have been pencilled in so far.

But Singapore GP had said last month that it is "not feasible to conduct the race behind closed doors". Experts such as Associate Professor Prem Shamdasani of the National University of Singapore Business School's marketing department also noted that without the off-track highlights and international fans, the multiplier benefits to the economy and global publicity will not materialise for Singapore.

ST understands F1 will not impose any financial penalties for the cancellation of the Singapore race.

On how the cancellation will affect the current contract - it ends after next year's race - and if it will be carried over into 2022, STB's director of sports Ong Ling Lee said it is open to exploring options and will work with various stakeholders "to prepare for different eventualities".

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 13, 2020, with the headline Singapore F1 race in Sept cancelled. Subscribe