It was ten past six in the morning when we woke up; I was glad to leave our room in Phuket without windows – it always felt like the middle of the night in there. The taxi man stupidly had no change so we had to go through screening, try to change it at one shop, fail, buy a lollipop at another to get change, then hand the change over across the exit doors so as not to have to re-pass through security. We grabbed some expensive croissants for breakfast then waited for our 9:25 flight.
Our plane landed in Singapore ahead of schedule and get on the MRT into the city. Five days after staying in Cozy Place in Krabi, we checked in to Cozy Corner, and our very basic, sweaty room where you could taste perspiration in the air. Lonely planet described the Phuket hostel in The Beach as having portrayed a ‘sweaty Khao San flophouse’. Cozy Corner felt similar, sans the crazy debauchery and drugs. Still, it would do the job until we moved to perhaps the most remarkable hotel in the world on the following Monday (more on that later). And Cozy Corner was the ideal location for the circuit so no public transport was required.
The ticket office was a 15 minute walk away by gate 3, which was in a hotel come shopping centre. We picked them up and grabbed some strange but adequate street food – heck,w e had tried it all in the past six weeks in South-East Asia.
There was a huge queue at gate 3 so we went back to the hostel to pick up my video camera, which I and forgotten.By the time we returned gate 3 had opened and the queue had completely gone. Once in, we had our photo taken on the ‘podium’ and bought t-shorts as presents, plus a programme.
We entered the track by the crossroads of turns 8 and 14 and wandered down to our Bay Grandstand which the cars circumnavigate and go under via turns 16-19. The view was as spectacular a city/bay view as you’ll get anywhere in the world. Marina Bay Sands hotel was smiling down on us and the entire bay as if it say ‘see you Monday’ whilst cars screamed by right to left in front of us with the ultra-modern skyscrapers of the CBD stage right.
During the afternoon and early evening we explored zones 3 and 4 and hunted out all the free raised viewing areas on Esplanade Drive, at the inside of T12, either side of T8 and on Raffles Avenue. We also found a cheeky spot outside of T13 where one could photograph through a small but perfectly placed gap in the fence.
The Padang Stage and Padang gardens infield were gorgeous (although having been to Pranang Beach in Krabi, Patong Beach in Phuket and now Padang gardens in Singapore all within a week was confusing).
We checked out all the food stalls and guzzled bottle of water after bottle of water to try to stay hydrated in the searing heat and sweltering humidity. All this time, Porsches, GP2 cars and F1 cars had all been practising or qualifying. After free practice 1 we grabbed a spicy burrito and quesidilla, which were so spicy they made us need even more water!
Next we wandered to the Esplanade Waterfront stage which was framed beautifully by the bay in the background. The light and laser show from the already stunning Marina Bay Sands hotel began and incredibly the bay and hotel managed to look even more striking and magnificent. As dusk fell the hues of the light across the bay meant everything took on a new complexion every few minutes. It became apparent that this is a city that, whilst gorgeous in the daytime, is designed to showcase the city state best at night.
We managed to get seats for Laura Mvula’s 50 minute set at the Waterfont stage and were treated to a wonderful show from a talented artist with an excellent band comprising keys, drums a cello, a violin and a harp.
Rather exhausted from all the walking, we sat in our grandstand for FP2 and watched the action whilst tuned to 102FM circuit commentary on Jodes’ iPod and watching GPTV on the giant screen opposite us.
It was very odd that most teams, personnel and media stay on European time during their time in Singapore. Team briefings often go on until midnight and many stay up until dawn and get up in the early afternoon. It was 1am by the time we settled into a sweaty Singapore sleep at the end of a 17 hour long but brilliant day.
The city and bay was even more stunning than on TV – a spectacular location for a race, right up there with my experience at the Monaco GP six years previously. Laura Mvula was great and I couldn’t wait to see The Killers, Rihanna, qualifying and the race over the next two days. Then on Monday we would be staying in the most impressive hotel in the world, the one with all the nice helicopter overhead shots of it and its fancy laser light show.
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