Tuesday, July 9, 2024
HomesportNo Bay grandstand but F1 Singapore Grand Prix will take centre stage...

No Bay grandstand but F1 Singapore Grand Prix will take centre stage this week

SINGAPORE – The sight of seven-time Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton posing with a pineapple is not something one would expect.

That Instagram post by Mercedes last Sunday prompted several commenters to link it to Singapore’s president-elect Tharman Shanmugaratnam, who had used the tropical fruit as his campaign symbol during the recent election.

One user even wrote that the Briton, 38, will win this weekend’s Singapore Grand Prix, adding “huat ah”, a Hokkien expression for prosperity also used during Mr Tharman’s campaign.

While Hamilton’s chances of winning are uncertain, what is clear is that the pulsating Formula One Singapore Grand Prix is steering into town this week for its 14th edition.

Some 250,000 fans are expected during the event from Friday to Sunday – a 17 per cent drop from the record turnout of 302,000 in 2022, when the night race returned after a two-year absence because of Covid-19.

The decrease is due to the 27,000-seater Bay grandstand’s closure as part of the redevelopment of The Float @ Marina Bay. Organisers said in their latest update that tickets are nearly sold out.

Preparations for the race have been revved up in the last week, with around 700 tonnes of F1 equipment arriving in the pit lane – comprising air cargo from the teams. Some of their advanced parties have also set up the garage, where the 20 drivers’ signs are already up.

F1 pop-up merchandise stores and sponsors’ booths are also up and running in several locations such as Raffles City, Bugis Junction and along Orchard Road, with T-shirts in the colours of Ferrari, Mercedes and Red Bull on display.

Some drivers have also tweaked their gear ahead of the race in Singapore. AlphaTauri’s Japanese driver Yuki Tsunoda is set to don a newly designed helmet with the image of the iconic Marina Bay Sands building and the Merlion, while Perez will commemorate his 250th F1 race with new headgear bearing the Mexican flag and the number 250 in green.

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The stars of the show – the drivers – will jet in by Wednesday, as sponsor and media engagements start on the same day, with Williams’ Alex Albon and Logan Sargeant scheduled to appear at a meet-and-greet at Raffles City.

Alfa Romeo’s Zhou Guanyu, who had arrived earlier, posted pictures of Marina Bay Sands on social media, along with a clip of him pounding the treadmill in preparation for the challenging race.

Since its 2008 debut, the Singapore GP has been known to be one of the most physically demanding on the F1 circuit. This time, drivers may get some help from a revised track layout.

Due to the redevelopment of The Float @ Marina Bay, drivers will navigate a shortened racetrack of 4.928km, compared with the 5.063km circuit in 2022.

Four corners have been removed near The Float, creating a longer straight that could aid overtaking and increase the average speed considerably, which may mean faster lap times.

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Haas driver Kevin Magnussen said the changes will probably make it slightly less demanding physically, adding: “It’s going to be faster, so it’s probably going to last for a shorter time so we’ll lose less liquid… Whether that will change anything for us as a team, time will tell.”

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, who has dominated the season, will be keen to extend his record to 11 straight wins this weekend, but this is a race the 25-year-old has yet to win.

Perez, the defending Singapore GP champion, will be ready to pounce if the Dutchman slips up as Red Bull look to continue their astonishing record of having won every race of the season.

Singaporean Austen Chua, 22, is looking forward to watching his idol Verstappen navigate the new layout and “hearing the sound of the V6 engines again”.

Chua, who will be attending Sunday’s race, said: “I do hope to see him (Verstappen) winning his first Singapore GP.

“But I’m not excluding Sergio Perez as he is very good on street circuits, proven by his incredible race win in intermediate conditions during last year’s race.

“I get super excited when it comes to the race week. Seeing the crash fence and Tecpro barriers being set up all over Marina Bay makes the anticipation so exciting.”

Ferrari follower Marsha Izzah Mohamed Azhar is hoping for a podium finish for Charles Leclerc.

The 21-year-old said: “It’s my first time in the pit grandstand which makes this experience even more fun. It’s the one time of the year, when I get to see the drivers on every poster and corner, and my friends travel from various parts of the world just to watch the race.

“Nothing is more exciting than to watch your favourite sport and go to concerts with your friends.”

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