Monday, November 14, 2011

Late Post: 2011 F1 Singtel Singapore Grand Prix

I haven't had time to post about my Singapore Grand Prix experience last September due to some pressing matters of work, family and other stuff that tend to keep one away from leisurely pursuits such as updating this blog.

In any case, I had a fun trip although not as hectic than the previous year. This time, I only booked three nights in Singapore, and bought only the raceday walkabout tickets.

Treb and Rene, my old pals and colleagues from AA/Smart, would be joining me on this trip. We surely missed Nappy who couldn't come along this time around. Me and him had a great time at least year's race and would have wanted to do it all again together this year.

Our access areas were the Zone 4 walkabout, which isn't that bad coz it gave us access to the exciting parts of the Marina Bay Circuit, the food stalls and the Padang Grandstand, where Linkin Park was slated to perform after the Chequered Flag.

I wasn't able to explore this area during last year's race, since our seats at the Marina Bay Grandstand were quite comfy, so it was a good change this time around.

As usual, we checked out some of the tents selling F1 merchandise right after entering the venue, and at various locations around the circuit. We spent some time scanning the grounds for an ideal vantage point from which to watch the race.

It was a fine day for a race, with the sky a bit cloudy and the late afternoon starting to cool off. The venue was filling up by 4pm that afternoon, but you can't ignore the fun and festive atmosphere emanating fro the F1 fans in attendance.

Some fans wore the colors of the team they were rooting for, so there was a preponderance of the bright crimson red of the Scuderia Ferrari team. There were also quite a lot of people sporting the silver and bright orange livery of Team Vodafone McLaren-Mercedes.

Then there were loyal Red Bull fans in deep dark blue, proud of the fact their No. 1 driver, and reigning Driver's Champion, Sebastian Vettel was in contention to win it all again that night.

The race was clean, uneventful, but provided enough excitement to keep most fans interested till the end. Since we didn't have permanent seats, we started walking about after the race started, checking out the food and other booths and stalls inside the circuit.

We also spent some time inside one of the malls near the convention center to cool off from the heat outside. Got us some cold beers at half the price being sold in the circuit so that was good.

Towards the latter part of the race, we made our way to the Padang Grandstand area to secure a place that would give us a good view to watch Linkin Park. We sat on the grass, watching the big screen monitor that flashed the video coverage of the race.

Felt bad to see seven-time champion Michael Schumacher crash out in the final few laps of the race. I was silently rooting for him, hoping he gets back into the same form that helped him dominate F1 for seven years. As a consuelo, I headed to the tent selling his personal merchandise and bought a silver and red cap bearing his signature brand.

The race ended with Vettel taking the top spot, followed closely by McLaren's Jenson Button and Red Bull's Mark Webber to round out the podium.

Once the trophies were handed out and the bubbly had been sprayed all over the audience, it was time for Linkin Park to hit the stage. And it was a kick-ass moment when the first strains of their first song started coming out of the speakers. They were here, singing, live and in person! It couldn't get any hotter than that!

Once we'd heard our favorite Linkin Park songs, we went out the race track once it was opened to audience. We walked a part of the circuit, taking photos of the corners and the skid marks on the tarmac. We also got our photos taken with the capable marshalls that helped organize and run this successful F1 event in Singapore.

Overall it was a fun time at the 2011 F1 Singtel Singapore Grand Prix. We'll see if we can come back in the succeeding years. Maybe its time to check out other F1 races in other venues.


Some photos of the F1 Singapore GP experience:

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Merlion's Roar

Walked around Singapore today, going in and out of the various malls around Orchard Road.

Later that evening, we heard the shrieking sounds of F1 engines zooming all over the Marina Bay Circuit. By that time, we had already walked from Lau Pa Sat where we had a sumptuous dinner of beef/mutton/chicken satay w/ peanut sauce, lemon chicken, kailan w/ garlic, cereal so tong (calamari), nasi goreng salted fish fried rice and nasi goreng beef fried rice, and some roti paratha.

Got a glimpse of the new Fullerton Bay Hotel, a new property that opened just in time for the Singapore Grand Prix. This one is along Esplanade Drive near the Merlion Park. Which was a good thing coz this would be the very first time I got near the Merlion statue, and at night to boot!

Amid the defeaning sound of V8 engines, we took some photos of the Merlion, ever-constantly spouting a spray of water from its mouth.

We'll see how this F1 race turns out.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Vroom: 2011 F1 Singapore Grand Prix

Flying off to Singapore tomorrow for the F1 weekend!

Got tickets just for the night race this time, not the whole 3-day package. I figured it'd be too costly and tiring to have to cover all three days. Instead, will just focus on the race itself.

This might be the last time for me. Will try to catch the F1 action in other circuits next time, hopefully Suzuka or Canada.

Will post highlights and photos of this adventure as soon as I get back!


Saturday, June 18, 2011

Reese's Ford Mustang GT

Yep, you read it right!

My kids gave me this car on Father's Day!

It's a spanking new, bright orange Reese's Ford Mustang GT... at 1/60 scale.

Cool, ain't it?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

My F1rst Grand Prix!

And so I arrived in Singapore just in time for the 2010 F1 Singtel Singapore Grand Prix, an event that I had been dreaming of probably ever since I became an avid spectator of motorsports.

Its one of those must-see events if you're into this sort of thing. The first ever international race I attended was the Macau Grand Prix back in 2001, and then the Proximus 24-hrs of Spa in 2003. I can still remember those experiences: the smell of burnt rubber mixing with the cool, crisp air; the ambiance of the whole race circuit; the thrill of walking through the paddocks and pit area.

This all happened in my previous career as an online journalist managing and editing a motoring website. Apart from the international races, we'd also cover the local races at the Subic International Raceway and Batangas Racing Circuit. Those were the heady days of Philippine motorsports, and you'd wonder why such enthusiasm for the sport did not snowball into something bigger as the years rolled on. Maybe it was due to economics and the whole financial aspect of running a race and managing a racetrack.

Well, my motoring journalist days are over, so I won't mess my head with such ideas. I went to Singapore to watch Formula One, and that's what I was determined to do!

As soon as I arrived, I could see that Singapore was abuzz with F1 fever, an annual spectacle that allowed the whole country to show off what it had to offer visitors. This was Round 15 of the F1 World and Driver's Championship, ensuring an exciting battle between drivers and the teams they belong to.

They built a race circuit around Singapore's busy streets, no mean feat for a small country! But they did it perfectly. The best part about it is that this was the only night race on the F1 calendar, and race organizers made sure the whole circuit would be lit up like daylight. Right there, Singapore had something to be really proud of!

As I walked down Orchard, Singapore's prime shopping avenue, on my first night, I came across white tents where F1 merchandise were on sale at strategic locations! You can practically choose the team jerseys, caps and other souvenir items you want. But the items being displayed were mostly of popular teams like Ferrari, McLaren and Red Bull Racing.

Spent most of my second day doing some window shopping at ION Orchard, Singapore's newest high-end mall. Then met up with Nappy in the afternoon after he texted me to say that F1 driver Jarno Trulli was signing autographs at one of the tents outside ION. So I rushed to the tent to catch some pics of him doing the meet and greet.

The Friday before the race is usually the final practice sessions for the team and drivers. It had rained earlier in the afternoon, so the track was wet. But good thing it stopped raining right before we got to the circuit, giving us enough time to walk leisurely from Gate 3 to our seats.

This was our first time in an F1 racetrack, and the Marina Bay Circuit seemed to be ideally built for spectators, with various spots from where you can watch the race. It was a great feeling to finally be here, after months of planning and waiting. The excitement was almost unbearable. Nappy and I were smiling from ear to ear! We made it just before the start of the first session at 6pm.

We made sure to get our Survival Kit, consisting of one pair of earplugs and one poncho, in case it rained. The earplugs was needed if you expect to be near the track where the loud roar of engines would be quite unsettling.

We saw the pretty Singapore girls maning the F1 merchandise tent, so I made sure to have my photo snapped with them! We didn't buy anything, though! Hehe!

This would be our first look at the Formula One cars and at the most, the drivers' helmets. Our tickets gave us seats along the Bay Grandstand area, a pretty good vantage point for watching since this section was where the cars would slow down as they turned left under the grandstand (Turn 18).

They say you haven't been to an F1 race unless you've heard the loud roar of the engines. In Singapore, it gets a little bit louder since its a city circuit, wherein the tall buildings provide an echoing effect. No wonder most of the city's promo copy say: "Its Going to Get Loud!"

We had a great view of Marina Bay Sands and the tall buildings of Singapore's downtown area, plus there were two widescreens directly facing the grandstand, giving us the benefit of watching the race broadcast. Behind our seats, we could see the Singapore Flyer looming in the background. It was a pretty sight, especially at night with all the lights on!

During the second practice session, I went down to the Esplanade Waterfront area to check out what was there. There were various food stalls and refreshment lined up, with tables in the middle, a good place to have a bit in between races.

I walked further down and found myself staring at a spectacular view of of enchantingly lit Marina Bay Sands, with three beams of light shooting up out of the Skypark on top! As I gazed toward the other end of the scenic view, I saw the glittering skyline of Singapore's business district -- an equally great view!

It wasn't difficult to take photos of the circuit. With 1,500 light projectors shining out an estimated 3,180,000 watts, this circuit was brightly lit, actually four times brighter than floodlights at sports stadiums.

After the second practice ended, we trudged back out to Gate 3 and looked for a place to have a late dinner. We ended up having some Hainanese Chicken Rice at Swee Kee behind Raffles Hotel. Then we went to Clarke Quay to meet up with Anmar for coffee.

Qualifying Sessions were scheduled to begin at 10pm so I had most of the day free to do what I wanted. Mai took me to a nice breakfast place and then I headed to Vivo City Mall to check out the NatGeo store. From there, I went back to Robertson Quay to meet up with some former BusinessWorld colleagues who were living in Singapore. It was a great lunch of pizza and catching up stories.

I spent the afternoon visiting the MINT Museum of Toys, something I had really planned to do on this trip. It took me about 45-minutes to get through the toy displays which were very interesting and nostalgic! Then I made a short trip to ION Orchard to get some stuff, then went back to the flat to get some rest.

I met up with Nappy and Kannitha at the McDonald's store in Raffles City, which was near the Gate 3 entrance of the circuit. It was already past 9pm by then and I just had enough time to devour the big MegaMac burger Nappy had ordered for me! It came with an equally huge box of french fries and a tall cup of Coke! Whew, that was a huge meal!

We hurried into the circuit to get to our designated seats. Along the way, we checked out the various F1 and SG Grand Prix merchandise for sale. The prices were so high! Good thing we got the lower-priced Singapore GP stuff at ION Mall the night before.

Qualifying began with much excitement! The audience knew this would be a good indication of how Sunday's race would turn out. We could see a sizeable number of Ferrari fans in their crimson red attire. On another side, we could see the McLaren die-hards in their silver-grey colors. Then there were the Red Bull fanatics, mostly Aussies rooting for championship leader Mark Webber. I also got a Red Bull shirt to wear on Sunday, so I guess I'm one of 'em RB fans!

It was a hard fought qualifying session, with the lead switching between two or three drivers throughout the one hour intervals. In the end, Ferrari's Fernando Alonso got pole position for the Sunday race, followed by the Red Bulls of Vettel and Webber, and then the McLarens of Hamilton and Button.

These five would be the ones challenging for the Driver's Championship as the season heads on to the last four races in Japan, Korea, Brazil and Abu Dhabi.

The circuit was nicely laid out, with lots of opportunities for cool photos! Yun lang, you'd have to be really diligent in selecting your spots as it got crowded in the walkabout areas. During practice and qualifying, its easier to go around and plant yourself somewhere with a good vantage point for photo-shooting. However on raceday, the marshalls are stricter and usually cordon off or cover the fences so that you wouldn't want to stay there.

We arrived at the circuit early on raceday, giving us time to check out the F1 merchandise again. I ended up buying a blue F1 Singapore Grand Prix cap!

We also took as many pictures as we could, knowing that an opportunity like this might not happen again in a long time (well, we might be back next year!).

We were able to see each driver clearly during the Driver's Parade at 6pm! They went around the circuit onboard some vintage cars, possibly of a local vintage car club based in Singapore.

This time, almost everyone in the audience were going crazy with excitement! All the fans brought out the best of their race gear, with flags and banners even!

I wore the Red Bull shirt that I purchased a couple of days before and I was just as glad to see that my team was among the frontrunners.

It was a great F1 race, to say the least. It was a long race, that's for sure. Sixty-one laps around a circuit measuring 5.073-km for a total race distance of 309.316 km! The lap record belonged to Kimi Raikkonen who managed 1:45.599 in 2008.

Alonso won the race, his fourth of the season, and clocked a fastest lap of 1:47.976. Not enough to beat Kimi's record but enough to hold off Sebastian Vettel's sustained attack throughout the race. Read the full race report from here.

Red Bull made it a 2 and 3 finish as Webber followed Vettel to the podium, a great result for the team and additional points to add to Webber's lead. Hamilton did not finish the race due to a broken suspension after colliding with Webber on lap 36, a sorry day for him.

It truly was a great experience to be there. More than the race itself, it was the thrill of being near our F1 idols, the ambiance, and the collective "magic" that only Formula 1 racing can provide! Its gotten me hooked again! Hopefully, I get a chance to watch this again in 2011!

Check out my Flickr gallery of the 2010 F1 Singtel Singapore Grand Prix!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Watch this space...

...for an update on how my Singapore Grand Prix experience turned out...

Still editing pics and working on the summary!


Sunday, September 19, 2010

All Set For the F1 Singapore GP!

I'm scheduled to fly out to Singapore on Wednesday morning, a good two days before the start of Friday practice, and I can't help but be excited!

Here's the latest bit of news coming from the Singapore GP website:

Off To A Great Start

20 September 2010 – The track barriers are in position, the lighting projectors are being tested, and the FORMULA ONE teams are arriving at the Marina Bay Street Circuit for the 2010 FORMULA 1 SINGTEL SINGAPORE GRAND PRIX.

Mark Webber of Red Bull Racing leads the title race and enjoys the Lion City although he has yet to score a point here. "I like Singapore; it's unique as we race at night," says the Australian. "You get the impression the crowd is pretty close to the track in most sections, so it's certainly cosy. I'm hoping to improve on last year's result, as it's a high down-force street circuit that should suit our car. It's got some similarities to Monaco and Budapest and we did well at both those circuits."

Lewis Hamilton, who won the 2009 FORMULA 1 SINGTEL SINGAPORE GRAND PRIX for Vodafone McLaren Mercedes, is just five points behind Webber and ready for the renewed challenge. "Winning in Singapore last year was one of the most satisfying victories of my Formula 1 career," says Hamilton. "It's difficult to say accurately how competitive we'll be in Singapore but the engineers are positive that we've made some good progress, so I'm looking forward to getting out on track and sampling the changes for real. The race should give us a clearer indication of exactly where we stand."

Teammate Jenson Button agrees: "The Singapore Grand Prix will be a very interesting weekend because I think it'll give us a clearer idea of the destiny of the world championship," says the man Hamilton succeeded as title-winner. "Singapore will be interesting for all of us – we'll not only get an idea of the speed of the Ferrari and Red Bull, but we'll get to see for the first time whether all our efforts over the past two months have helped put us back in the ballpark at high-downforce tracks."

Continue here.

I haven't really decided on which F1 team to cheer for. I'm just elated to be able to enjoy the F1 experience. At this point, I'll just let the whole thing sink in and roll with it.

But some of the teams & drivers I won't mind performing well are:

- Red Bull Racing, specifically Mark Webber, who's turn to win the Driver's Championship is next. I also plan to get some RBR team souvenir items like a shirt or cap maybe, depending on the budget.

- Jenson Button, who I also believe needs a good win to cement his place as a consistent champion.

- Mercedes Benz. Can't help but still be awed by Michael Schumacher, despite all his success being stuck in the past. It would be great to just see a semblance of brilliance from this guy at the SG F1 circuit.

- Ferrari. Of course, one can't really enjoy a great F1 race without the strong participation of the red team.

This. Is. Gonna. Be. Great!