A Grand Prix Weekend: Singers Style!! [Part 2]
Friday morning dawned and Toby’s Estate Café was our destination for breakfast. The place has a great vibe, opitimised by the communal hard-wood dining table, artistically decorated chalk board, all amid a warehouse-style minimalist décor which makes you wonder whether the café was there the previous morning.
With my friend having work obligations, I was given the early afternoon to explore Singapore’s famous Orchard Street shopping strip, one long expanse of high-end air-conditioned retail outlets selling goods almost as impressive as the stores in which they are contained. For the race weekend, a pop-up exhibition is established by The Hour Glass, displaying a range of high-tech, hand-held innovation pioneering all means of complexity to display the most basic of measures, in a bid to justify the highest pricest possible. One bloke tried on the recently released Hublot LaFerrari, a limited edition watch resembling a type-writer for a postage stamp. It wasn’t until the man was told the price that his interest turned to horror, for at around half a million dollars the over-sized watch was decidedly not over-sized enough and it’s functions woefully limited. Many were heard to remark that they’d rather buy a Ferrari, to which the salesman remarked “you can’t drive a Ferrari under water” at which point someone remarked “Why would you want to be under water if you owned a Ferrari?”, the watch went back in its case.
For the afternoon we elect to visit the ‘Gardens By The Bay’, a structure that was in the midst of construction on my previous visit to the city in 2011 when the immense Marina Bay Sands complex was the new attraction, under construction on my first visit in 2009.
I must say that aside from providing a respite from the heat, the experience was rather under-whelming particularly for a complex that allegedly cost … billion dollars to construct, a figure that makes even Formula 1 suddenly look far less wasteful. In fact I am left feeling as though despite serving to house the attraction, it is the buildings themselves that are the most impressive, but not enough to make me go back. As the late afternoon rolled in it was time to take advantage of the Singapore Marina Bay Circuit and ascend above the circuit from the roof-top vantage point of the Altitude bar.
While grandstand tickets for the race weekend provide you with a seat and a screen, there is nothing quite as spectacular in Formula 1 than to watch the Formula 1 cars emerge, the sun light fade, and the flood lights take hold over the 3.147 mile circuit for the first practice session of the race weekend, and for $69SGD including three very stiff Mojitos it is an absolute must. Nowhere in the world does the sight of an F1 circuit overpower the sound emanating from it. The first practice session times point to a more open fight than the previous races with Lewis Hamilton finishing almost four tenths clear of the two Red Bulls of Webber and Vettel. First practice session down and it’s time to see our seats and the second practice session.
Arriving at gate 1 you are greeted by a vast array of local assistants all ready to check your ticket, inspect your bag, give you a promotional flag and sell you a program, all with the kind of enthusiasm usually reserved to Apple employees at the launch of a new IPhone. This year our seats are on the start/finish line which importantly gets you access to all four zones of the circuit which aside from giving you access to all the entertainment, gives you the ability to view all parts of the circuit from which it is surprisingly easy to obtain some very interesting vantage points.
From our seats in Bay 19 on the front straight, we have views of the final four teams’ garages, the first front rows, and the opening corner. I’m personally delighted with the view, as the opportunity to see more of Pastor ‘The Barron’ Maldonado around the confines of the Marina Bay Circuit is always worth the price of admission.
The cars come out on the mediums and almost immediately it is a battle of the Bulls with Webber and Vettel exchanging fastest lap times to the point where they are some six tenths quicker than Hamilton in third. Half an hour in and Vettel opts for the super-softs and sets a rapid lap of 1m44.249s, 2.3 seconds faster than his medium compound time, the brilliance of which is emphasized further by Webber who can only set a time of 1m44.853s. Vettel appears to be in a league of his own on the super-softs. For the rest of the session, the teams test the performance of the their cars over long runs, something that in the Singapore heat can be extremely trying. Still we hang in there and as the session finishes it is Red Bulls first and second.
Following practice we are left with the decision of going out for dinner or attending the Padang for the nights free entertainment. Tonight’s entertainment is a concert by K-Pop legends ‘BigBang’. We reason that as a lack of food could result in our death and that mere mention of our presence at a K-Pop concert could also result in our death, it would be best for all concerned that we opt for dinner. Brewerks on Clark Quay is the venue, where you come for the beers and stay for the wings, provided you order them with the suicide sauce of course. Dinner down and it’s off to Boat Quay, originally intended by Sir Thomas Raffles to be a place of trade and the life-blood for the emerging island port. Tonight we are at Magumbo’s, a chance to see how the week-day workers unwind and from the scene that greets us, it’s quite liberal to say the least!! I’m not sure whether it’s the sweltering heat, or the absence of responsible service of alcohol legislation, but there are Jaeger shots everywhere!!
About 40 to be more precise, stacked in staggered pyramids in what appears as a method to ensure all the drinks fit on the bar and can be efficiently poured in one line. Once poured however someone, usually the person who has shouted the entire bar, has the honour to push the first shot which in turn triggers a domino effect across the other shots. In a flurry of chinking sounds the social ceremony of uniting bull with stag is complete. While there I get the chance to talk to some of my mates old work colleagues in Singapore and I get the opportunity to ask them whether they enjoy living and working in Singapore. The response is fairly abrupt, “Not really. I’m hopefully looking to get a position in Hong Kong” a concept that strikes me as the closest possible way for a human being to go out from the oven and into the frying pan and still come out carpaccio. I had to ask why. “It’s boring. There’s not much to do here”. Despite the appeal of our surroundings, drinking yourself into a coma gradually was losing its appeal over time. For a one-off race weekend however it was bottoms up as we moved on to China Lane before finishing up at Attica nightclub. Stumbling out of the club at 3am… I think, crash on the bed, hangover awaits, welcome to Singapore.