A Grand Prix Weekend: Singers Style!! [Part 3]
Throughout any weekend at the Singapore Grand Prix, what becomes increasingly apparent is the advantage of having the Grand Prix at night, particularly for those who embrace the surrounding nightlife. It’s quite relaxing to know that you can be up till 4am in the morning, get up late, have breakfast, and still have another four hours before any on-track action takes place. I think it must also be great for the Singapore economy as the GP tragics explore the various attractions that the city has to offer.
Saturday morning, qualifying looms and ominously, so does the possibility of another Vettel pole position. But before that it’s off for breakfast at Spathe on Mohamed Sultan Road. Another trendy establishment out of touch with traditional Singapore but up-to-date with it’s current guise. The fellas are feeling a little worse for wear following last night’s activities so a quick bit of exercise is proposed. Quick exercise takes on a new meaning in Singapore because with no air-conditioner, a gym room can double as a sauna in no time at all, and while weights are somewhat acceptable, the presence of a treadmill is simply sadistic. Out of the gym and into a pool which you could swear had been heated by means other than the climate, and it wasn’t long before we were back in the apartment and knocking back a couple of 100 Plus’.
For lunch we head to the Tanjong Beach Club, which unsurprisingly, is hosting a VIP event for the Grand Prix weekend. The place is notably cool, and for the first time in Singapore, feels appropriately dressed for the climate. As was the case the previous night Responsible Service of Alcohol is not a concept known in Singapore and the Tanjong beer pong tables are out in force. Tanjong is the kind of place that lures you in with a bikini clad girl on the website, only for you to arrive and find all her friends have turned up as well. What is understated to them is highly notable to us mere mortals. While we could not get in to the VIP section there was little to be concerned, the only difference there being that champagne required the assistance of two people, such was its size.
Despite being decked out in opposing team gear, swilling back Heineken’s and only 4 hours out from qualifying, our appearance did not deter some at the beach asking if we were working for one of the teams, F1 memorabilia seeming to catch people’s eyes like men wearing military uniforms do for the ladies. You know they are plebs within their organization but you can’t help be intrigued by their lifestyle. On this occasion it was a nice bloke named Jason who after being told we were not members of Red Bull, quickly rattled off the various F1 venues he’d been to around the world all while seemingly having no intention to be going to the night’s qualifying session, as displayed by his lack of shirt, shoes, disposition and abundance of beer and scantly-clad women. I started to wonder whether Jason, despite having gone to various Formula 1 destinations around the world, had ever attended a racetrack in his entire life, after all, he had asked if we were team members of Red Bull Racing. Despite all this I couldn’t help but feel a little envious of the bloke.
Leaving Tanjong, our next destination harked back to our place of origin. Perhaps opitimising the concentration of Australians in Singapore, we opt for the Boomerang Bar on Robertson Quay to watch the football finals, in particular the AFL qualifying final between Fremantle and Sydney. To my great surprise it is the purple of Freo that dictates fashions, with few showing an interest in the Rugby League which features on fewer and smaller screens throughout the bar. The scene is conflicting with the traditions and culture of Singapore, as the rowdy alcohol-fueled exuberance of the local well-heeled workers contrasts with the reserved modesty of the citizen assistants. The AFL is a blow-out, Freo leading all the way. We hope that a similar result is not reflected on track this evening.
Qualifying commences and once again the battle is on to see which two drivers will join the two Caterhams and the two Marussias at the back of the field. Q1 has continually maintained a consistent pattern over the past few years under the Pirelli tyres with teams looking to minimize their use of the softer rubber for later in qualifying but at times unable too when the softer tyre makes up for the insufficiencies in rivals car performance. With Pirelli bringing the super-soft and medium compound tyres some suggest the lap-time advantage to be as much as two seconds, if that’s so the Red Bull is more than two seconds faster as Webber beats Hulkenberg’s super-soft time while on mediums. By Q1 end though it is Paul Di Resta and Pastor Maldonado that are forced to sit out qualifying early, “The Barron” unable to replicate his astonishing 2012 front row performance last year. Hamilton is quickest in the first session ahead of a very impressive Button. Vettel is seventh on the medium compound but some suspect he was running used intermediates.
Q2 commences and the super-softs are fitted. Alonso, Raikkonen, Hamilton and Rosberg lay down the benchmarks for which the Bulls will have to beat. Rosberg’s 1:43.892s puts him at the head of the queue until Webber narrowly eclipses it only for Vettel to stop the clock, along with all hope of a competition, at 1:42.905!! The gig is up, the boy wonder is on fire and the fans know that a driving clinic is on the cards. Those with the chance to watch how it’s done are Hulkenberg, Vergne, Raikkonen, Perez, Sutil and Bottas. The big surprises of qualifying so far is undoubtedly Guttierrez who continues to provide increased bang for his well-publicised buck, out-qualifying his team mate on a true driver’s circuit.
The execution of Q3 has at times differed in 2013 with drivers either being resigned to the need to save tyres for the race and only opt for one run, being confident in the belief the tyres will operate better with a two-lap run, opt for two single lap runs on different sets of tyres, or do as McLaren have done and use up all your tyres overcoming the mid-field in Q2 and have none to contest Q3, whatever method is opted for one thing remains the same, the McLaren’s are awful. We are all quite surprised to see Vettel come out first but not surprised to see his time of 1:42.841s , the fatsest of the weekend so far. Six tenths behind is Rosberg followed by Webber, Hamilton and Grosjean, while Button comes back into the pits without recording a lap time, safe in the knowledge that no matter how good it is, it will be good for tenth. With the weekend’s best time recorded but more time for another go, Vettel gets out of the car in the belief that while he can go faster no one else can. As the field complete there second laps and use up more valuable soft rubber the German is proved right… just. Rosberg is second less than a tenth away while Grosjean beats Webber to third and the clean side of the grid. Despite two attempts Webber is almost three tenths adrift of his teammate. Pole position to Vettel, the 41st of his career.
After all the action of qualifying, there’s just enough time to hot foot it across to ‘The Padang’, the grass area on the inside of the circuit where tonight, Las Vegas alternate rock band ‘The Killers’ are performing their first concert ever in Singapore. Tomorrow night will be Rhianna and the following night will be Owl City and Justin Bieber. It is the hallmark of a heavily government-backed event, that the fee for the race doesn’t deter the organisers from spending the cash on additional entertainment to supplement the main event. I had the great privilege to attend the 2010 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix where grandstand admission came with admission to see Linkin Park, Kanye West and Prince on successive nights. But a concert in the cramped confines of a Singapore mosh is a battle on the senses. Stand and listen and you’ll enjoy the show with little enthusiasm, attempt to either sing or move while watching and I quickly find myself fond to faint. The concert comes to an end and as the patrons part I feel like I’ve walked out of a waterless shower, such is the extent of sweat on my clothes. Open the apartment door, fall to the floor in a ritual of worship to the inventor of air-conditioning, Saturday down, welcome to Singapore.