Monday, September 21, 2009

My 2008 F1 Experience

I thought I'd write a little more about my experience of last year's F1 race in Singapore.  

As it was very late by the time I'd realize that I'd be able to make it to the race, I only ended up with the Friday's Walkabout tickets. For myself and Ling. But that was where the fun began. I did feel a little disappointed for not getting tickets to the race proper but I still felt that at least having the little experience was better than nothing. The best part, as far as I was concerned was that I'd have Ling by my side. That may sound a little mushy but you understand.  

We decided to walk around the area on the Thursday before the race weekend. I just wanted to see how the preparations were going on. I saw the lights being tested a few days before but I thought I'd like to see what else was happening.

video Final preparations before the big weekend.  

As we were walking along my old school, SJI, along Bras Basah Road towards the track side, we noticed the full glare of the lights in the distant. There was a sense of electricity in the air, no pun intended, as we saw many foreigners in the area as well. 

We understood that they must have come from all corners of the globe to catch the first ever night race in Formula 1. Like us, they must also be trying to get familiar with what was going to happen in the following days. The rest of that night is pretty much summed up in the article that was written about us in The New Paper here.

The Friday couldn't come fast enough. We took the train to City Hall and we got a couple of hot dogs from a bread shop in the basement. It was around 6 in the evening. We went in through the Gate that was near the station itself and we could already hear the roar of the cars from the support races. The crowd there was huge, both inside and out. Many people who didn't buy tickets were gathered all over the perimeter to catch a glimpse of the action. 

  One of the first things we did as we got in was to purchase the ear plugs and poncho set. At $2 we thought it was really cheap. We only found out later that nothing else there was! Everything they sold there that was basically needed by human beings were sold at ridiculous prices! Thank God I managed to sneak in a water bottle and some curry puffs.  

We then proceeded towards the huge Marina Bay staircase entrance. There were a lot of shops selling merchandise from the various teams and also some from Singapore GP. We couldn't care less about the SGP stuff so we went straight to the team stores. Singapore GP should really start thinking twice about the crap they are selling at those crazy prices. Who in his right mind would pay for all that when they can buy the official team merchandise for the same price?

Anyhoo we didn't buy anything at that time yet. We thought we'd look around to see what else was in store. I knew I was going to buy something but I just didn't know what yet. As a souvenir perhaps. Anything. 

We proceeded to walk back and cross over to the Padang area. We basically walked around the whole perimeter, looking at all the interesting displays and the performances they had there. I especially liked the antic luxurious cars sector the most. That was near the ocean next to the Padang garden.

video  
Some of the greatest cars ever. The background music was being performed by a local group.  

We kept walking until we reached the Esplanade itself and we walked along the bay. We saw 'live' bands performing there as well. The whole place was swarmed and I enjoyed seeing groups of people carrying big Ferrari flags as they walked around. I only saw that previously on TV. Never thought I'd see that here. 

  We doubled back to the Padang as we knew the first practice run was about to start. We ended up on the other side of the Esplanade bridge near where the old Merlion use to stand. Strangely I found out that that area was eventually barricaded the following days. Probably due to the fact that the crowd was basically holding on the fencing itself and it was a little dangerous. So once again we were lucky that day. 

The cars came to a near stop as they made that corner. This was at the infamous turn 13. It was around 7 p.m. and I remember clearly the first time the sounds of F1 cars was heard in Singapore. That is a sound I will never forget! As we stood on those concrete benches I heard what sounded like a haunting scream in the distance. It was indeed frightful and I remember telling Ling later that it sounded like crazy blood thirsty vampires being let loose into the night. The crowd around us gave out a really loud cheer at that moment.

  video
And the Devils are let loose. 

  Everyone around us started to cheer louder and louder as we heard them coming closer and closer. As I write this, I'm having the same goosebumps I felt at that moment. Suddenly, the first car came around the corner and there we all stood, stunned at the deafening sound it created. Everyone clasped their hands to their ears, even those who were wearing earplugs! The ground beneath us shook violently as each car zoomed past. 

There was a British couple standing next to us and we smiled at each other. We began talking, shouting rather, with each other.We found out they were actually here, for the race, to have their honeymoon! Wow! 

When I found out they were from Britain I couldn't help but show off the photo we took the night before with Lewis Hamilton. Both of them stood amazed with their jaws opened. Ling showed them the autograph and the lady said we ought to frame that, which we eventually laminated bythehoo. 
They kept asking us how we managed to get that close to him and more on how the experience was. They also asked for the hotel he was staying in and we told them. They said they were going to try the same that night. 

The young lady was obviously overwhelmed by the sounds so I remember giving her an extra packet of the earplugs and poncho I had and she kept saying "thank you" to me. It's sad that we didn't exchange names or contacts. It would have been nice to know how they are today or if they're coming over again.

After the first practice ended Ling and I continued with our walkabout. It was then that we went to one of those stores to buy a team product. I had set my mind on Team McLarens cap. I just couldn't decide which colour I wanted, the striking rocket red was a bit too shocking a colour for me so I set on the silver cap. It cost S$70 and I got to wearing it immediately. I've since kept it in an air-tight bag. Such a cheapo I am, huh?

   
"You guys went for F1 and all I got was this lousy cap. Lewis Hamilton who?" 
   
There was this funny incident that occurred at the store, which was near the Padang.There was a Japanese man standing next to me as I was making my purchase. I only heard part of his conversation with the girl at the counter. Ling heard most of it. This poor man was looking to purchase a pair of ear plugs. It was a Mclaren store after all and the ones they had were the official Mclaren ear plugs. Not the ones on their official website, these were a little grander. He got a shock when she told him it cost $60!

video  
Behind the scene. Team Honda's last season.  

The poor guy looked stunned as he turned away and he stood there looking very confused. Ling, being the ever good Samaritan that she is, went up to him and told him about the cheaper options. She directed him to the location where we got our packs. He kept thanking Ling. What I don't understand is how that young girl at the store could tell him that that was all there was. Couldn't she have helped him a little further. He obviously wasn't looking for souvenir earplugs. He just needed earplugs.


  video  
More behind the scene video from Toyota. I know the videos are shaky. Do forgive me.  

We watched the 2nd practice run from somewhere near that Marina Bay stairs. It was there we got to see Massa taking his car for a ride going the wrong way and not making the corner. It was amazing to see how he spun his car around
so fast and got back on the track.

  video  
This video has made many of my Ferrari loving friends very envious. A sneak peek into Ferrari's Fortress.  

We stayed around for a while after the final practice ended before we joined the rest of the crowd towards the exit. It wasn't as much of a hassle as some people complained it was, getting out of the circuit area.  

It didn't matter that we couldn't watch the next two days at track side. We felt we got the best out of the deal already. Meeting Lewis Hamilton and some of the other drivers, plus getting up close to the pit garage was great enough. 
Seeing some of the teams going about their pit practices was also a bonus. 

I don't know what would be in store for us come this few days ahead but I do know we'll try to have as much fun as we did last year. Maybe even more, if possible.  

Till next time, when we meet on the other side of the track, I wish you guys a fantastic Formula 1 experience.

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