A Grand Prix Weekend: Singers Style!! [Part 4]
The morning saw us visit two Singapore eating spots at Dempsey Hill, a complex which describes itself as ‘a retail and lifestyle destination for those who know how to live it up’. Sounds like us!! Once the Singaporean National Service Enlistment Centre, the complex has been given a lease of life with the kind of success that makes you hope the Singaporean Legal System might one day provide the same to convicted drug smugglers. First up is P.S. Cafe, which appears to have become a Singaporean institution with multiple locations around the city. Any notion that multiple locations would bring lesser quality has not been my experience. On my previous visit we had eaten at their location in the Palais Renaissance which challenges why all greenhouses should not double as dining rooms. Dempsey Hill takes the schmick decor, and puts it amidst a tree-house like environment that lends itself to a relaxed dining atmosphere. No matter the venue, any good restaurant is all in the eating and the P.S. menu leaves you struggling to choose, only to make you want to order your options as well. As expected on race day morning the queue for brekky is considerable however, the fact it was Sunday, or simply open for business better explains the need to wait for a table. Desperate for a morning wake up, we move further into the Dempsey Hill complex and take respite in the Jones the Grocer, complete with it’s own eating areas and coffee bar. The coffee hits the spot and before we know it a table is ready at P.S.
Over breakfast thoughts drift to tonight’s race and what permutations could possibly result in an outcome other than Vettel victory, no doubt as many did on Monaco morning in the Senna days, only there while perhaps on boats or dropping ten large at the tables. Either way, the conclusion was the same as it would’ve been then, “It was the pole sitter’s to lose”.
Arriving at the circuit, the Grand Prix caters for pre-race dinner at large indoor food area. While the food caters for a variety of tastes, it’s the ‘Two for One Beers’ sign at the Pizza Stand which gets my attention. “Two beers thanks mate!”. “That will be $20 thanks”. As $20 was the price for two beers I thought there might of been some mistake. “Sorry mate isn’t it two for one beers?”. The response was quite surprising, “Yeah you buy two beer and get one free. I’m getting you three beers.” At this point I started to provide my interpretation of their sign. “Oh but doesn’t the sign mean two beers for the price of one?”. “Yes!! You buy two and get one!!”. ” Yeah but?…?…” I was about to explain the dilemma for me and most people visiting the Grand Prix for three beers but thought better of it, after all, perhaps there was something I wasn’t seeing in the sign. Almost immediately after receiving my beers an Australian behind me tapped me on the shoulder, “mate can you just have that conversation again so I can get it in on video because that was gold!!”. It wasn’t just me then. From the eating area, it was only a short walk to our seats as the cars began to fire up and head out of the pits to take up their position on the grid.
The atmosphere at the start of a Formula 1 Grand Prix is best described through video, and an over-exuberant commentator, both of which can be enjoyed here.
Off the line and for the first four seconds of the opening lap a driver other than Sebastian Vettel contested the lead for the Singapore Grand Prix. From the dirty side of the grid Rosberg was alongside and inside Vettel into turn one. Where the dirty side had failed to halt the German off the line, it deserted him into the first corner as the Mercedes over shot the apex and, in an instant, Vettel switched back to be on the inside as the cars negotiated turn 3. Once more Vettel had shown his class, staying alongside Rosberg off the line and forcing his compatriot to take the tighter line into the opening corner, ever-aware that the racing-line would favour the switch-back on his compatriot should he run wide. When Formula 1 is referred to as chess at 300km/h it is the planning behind Vettel’s counter-punch that best displays it. One of the best examples of this style of overtaking manoeuvre was displayed by Rubens Barrichello for the lead of the 2003 British Grand Prix.
At the conclusion of the first set of stops to replace the option tyre Vettel led Rosberg by ten seconds. To the chagrin of his opponents, Vettel had been one of the last to stop despite being one of the fastest on track. Within regulations that dictate tyres perform poorly, Vettel’s uncanny ability to destroy the track without the black was impressive.
On lap 24 and somewhere within the Marina Bay armco, Daniel Ricciardo had buried his Toro Rosso with inevitable consequences. The chant went for the 23rd car to enter the fray.
The chant was answered and as the safety car emerged on to the circuit, it could not have done so at a more pivotal moment for Vettel and his pursuers. Not because the German was systematically dismantling their every effort to stay in touch with him, but with 37 laps still to go, and Vettel requiring to stop for the medium compound tyre, the dilemma was apparent. Pit now and surrender the lead to those drivers that had already switched to the medium at their first stop, with the risk that the medium compound tyre would last the remaining distance, or alternatively, opt not to pit, surrender the advantage accumulated to that stage of the race and on worn tyres, try to re-establish a lead large enough to pit for medium tyres later in the race and ensure victory. The choice of strategy would have been made all the more easier had Vettel known Rosberg would remain on track, ensuring a driver with fresher tyres would have to get past Rosberg before pursuing Vettel. Amongst those were Alonso and Raikkonen who opted to pit. Vettel opted to stay out and as the safety car cleared, the too often rarely heard directive went out over the RB CB “Use your tyres. Open up the gap.” Vettel’s performance over the next 12 laps can only best be described as astonishing. The German had restored his lead over second place Rosberg within four laps, had doubled this after nine, and twelve laps after the safety had come in, Vettel had the 30 second lead he needed to make his mandatory pit stop. From the stands it was clear, race over, and although there was a mathematical opportunity for his rivals, the championship ended there as well. Vettel and Red Bull in a category of one, and the German’s fourth consecutive Formula 1 World Championship all but assured.
Behind Vettel, attention quickly shifted to both McLaren’s. Having fought all season with a poor chassis, Perez and Button were trying to capture a podium position on poorer tyres to match. Both drivers had pitted for the medium tyre at their first opportunity and having made no appearance on the podium so far in 2013, this was the much needed fluke that all knew would be required. However, it was always going to be difficult with both Alonso and Raikkonen looming large on fresh feet from afar. Further behind, Webber, Rosberg and Hamilton were charging, by now aware that they should have pitted under the safety car, they overtook Guitierrez and Hulkenberg and hoped that the McLaren’s could provide greater resistance to Raikkonen. While Perez was easy pray for Raikkonen, Button put up greater resistance forcing the Fin to take the Brit around the outside of turn 15.
So Vettel ran out the winner, with Alonso second, Raikkonen third and Webber down an escape road after his engine let ago in a manner as equally spectacular as his comeback through the field. If Formula 1 were judged on artistic flare Webber would’ve scored, as it is not, Webber scored nothing. Another race where the Aussie was down on luck but even further down on Vettel. The only consolation for Webber was delivered through the kindness of Fernando Alonso, the Spaniard providing the Australian with a lift back to the pits.
Unlike some circuits, Singapore allows the public on to the circuit following the Grand Prix, perhaps understandable considering all the things they take from them in order to stage it. This fortunately gives us enough time to run down like maniacs in order to stand quietly and watch the post-race driver interviews. On this occasion Martin Brundle conducted the interviews and upon introducing Vettel, the jeers that had been so common throughout the season were once again apparent. Vettel was only far too aware of the proximity of Singapore to Australia so was probably not surprised to discover that no matter how good his performance, the crowd simply hated him. This was in stark contrast to Raikkonen, who could’ve said absolutely nothing and still be applauded. Fortunately perhaps for Vettel, the crowd were yet to discover that Webber would later be penalised for hitching a ride with Alonso, the sport having changed since the ‘fit as many men as you can’ days of the late 80s.
In a post-race interview with Sky Sports, Mercedes non-executive chairman Niki Lauda was full of praise for Vettel and Red Bull Racing declaring “I would give him the world championship today for this drive. Because for me it was outstanding.” While undoubtedly one-sided, the performance of both Red Bull and Vettel had been awesome to watch. The kind of race that typified the 2009 – 2013 era of Formula 1. Combine this with the differing strategies, leading to the late-race on-track battles, and the Singapore circuit had provided yet another memorable event.
By leaving the circuit via the final sector of the track, we were able to witness a scene that could only be played out at a Formula 1 event with one guy looking to collect discarded rubber clippings while his mate tried to chat up a girl by differentiating the compounds. Approaching the train station, Rihanna could be heard entertaining the crowd at the Padang Stage and while tempting, a Scoot plane with what looked like breakfast awaited our departure to Sydney. We made our farewells with a promise to do it all again in a couple of years.
Once again Singapore and Formula 1 had turned on an awesome event. Singapore is like no other venue on the Formula 1 calendar in that a little research can go a long way to maximising your experience both at, and around this most unique of sporting venues. Great food, awesome race, epic company… thanks Singapore.
I hope this review has been both informative and entertaining and look forward to providing more in the future. As always, if you have any questions about the Singapore Grand Prix I am more than happy to assist. Until next time, all the very best.