5 Singapore GP Tips No One Talks About

The Formula 1 in my home city is just three days away! Tickets collected, ear plugs packed, you’ve read the suggestions on the Singapore GP web page and you’re ready for the weather. What could go wrong?

Having attended all the Singapore GP’s held thus far, I’d like to offer my favourite tips to those race fans who are looking to maximise their enjoyment of the race and minimise the frustration (and one for those who want to avoid the event entirely). Do comment if you’d like my advice on other matters related to attending the race!

Dealing with fences

The circuit is lined on both sides with catch fences that keep flying debris away from spectators, but it also makes shooting good photographs difficult. Fans who are seated high enough in the grandstands needn’t worry. For the rest of us, there are spots around the track, though, where the fences overlap, leaving a clear gap to aim the lens at. Take a little time to find them. I cannot guarantee they’ll be in the same places every year or that the organisers won’t cover them with a tarp! Try the areas between Turns 4 and 5, 14 and 15, 19 and 20, and 22 and 23.

Adrian Sutil (Force India, 2010)
Adrian Sutil (Force India, 2010)
See: A lap of the track on foot

The right equipment

Another option is bringing a 300mm lens (the maximum size allowed for spectators) and a teleconverter for a DSLR camera. It will be a pain to lug around and hold up, but the depth of field available makes the fences barely visible in the photographs. I’m just a cheapskate who sticks to an advanced compact camera, so I’ll have to live with those lines in my pictures, but I make the best of it by

  1. tuning my settings manually to get the right balance of brightness and shutter speed (for the evening sessions, I would recommend an ISO setting between 250 to 400 and a shutter speed no slower than 1/125 seconds), and
  2. panning as the car zips past.

They still look heaps better than most of the photos taken on phones with automatic settings.

Nico Huelkenberg (Force India, 2012)
Nico Huelkenberg (Force India, 2012)

Eating around the circuit

The food and drink options around the circuit are quite plentiful and a big improvement over the first couple of races. However, there is far more variety in the malls surrounding the circuits, namely Marina Square, Millenia Walk and Suntec City.

Furthermore, some of the merchants and restaurants at Marina Bay Sands and Marina Square offer discounts and deals to patrons who show their race passes. Click on the links to view the offers. They suffer every year when the roads are closed for a week, so I’m inclined to support them with my custom.

True, the malls are not as convenient as the trackside stalls and one needs to go through the bag check again upon returning to the circuit. However, I think the trade-off is worthwhile enough for me to do this every season. Besides the additional options, they are quieter than usual since the rest of Singapore avoids the area like the plague during the race weekend, and they offer air-conditioned relief from the sweltering heat!

Personally, I enjoy Alt Pizza in Suntec City for pizza, Paulaner Brauhaus in Millenia Walk for German pub grub and beer that is brewed on-site, and the Marina Square Gallerie food court for a meal on a tight budget. The more well-heeled can enjoy a Sunday brunch at one of the trackside hotels if they can get a table. (I’m sorry I can’t offer a recommendation for these – would anyone else like to help?)

Check out this post if you’re looking for some inexpensive meals after the track sessions.

Avoiding the crowds

It pays to plan one’s movements before arriving at the circuit in order to minimise the time spent in a human traffic jam. A map of the circuit park is essential for newcomers and even seasoned fans will find changes to the plan this year. These are the ones to watch out for:

From experience, Gate 3 is the busiest, even though it is also the largest. There is usually a queue that doubles on itself several times, though to the credit of the officials it doesn’t stagnate. Try out the viewing spots near quieter gates like No. 1, 2 (both for Zone 1 ticket holders only), 4, 5 and 6 first.

A common underground passage connects all four corners of the intersection that makes up Turns 8 and 14. People are directed to move in an anti-clockwise manner only, and it crawls at peak hours as the escalators have limited capacity.

It’s chaos after the last on-track session of each day as everyone heads towards the concert zones or the MRT stations, and the latter can get very packed. It wouldn’t be unwise to stay around a little longer as the situation gets better an hour later. Leave the rush to those who need to leave urgently; the last trains do not leave until 12 in the morning.

Walkabout ticket holders lining the track
Walkabout ticketholders lining the track before the race

Avoiding the madness

I remember when Formula 1 first rolled around in Singapore, a lecturer of ours lamented how he couldn’t walk some of his favourite streets around the Marina Bay circuit without feeling like he was in a cage. Other friends of mine swore that they’d stay away from the downtown area, contributing to the relative peace in the malls I mentioned earlier.

For those people who want to distance themselves from the sport as far as possible, Singapore Foodie has put together a list of far-flung (at least for a tiny island) places to do just that. To her credit, she isn’t a hater and she has attended the race before.

The people at Bollywood Veggies have a sense of humour

I have one bonus tip: Look elsewhere if you want to know more about the race weekend parties. As a motorsports fan I’m drawn to the on-track action more than the glamour of the dance clubs and deejays, and as fans, we spend the small hours of the morning doing waiting for autographs. Sorry to disappoint you if that was what you were looking for.

This is the last of the Singapore GP articles that I’ll be writing this week, and I hope they were useful. Next week, I’ll be back to posting travel stories and race meetings elsewhere in the world. Enjoy the event – it’ll be over sooner than you think, and then another year of waiting will begin!

McLaren made me their fan blogger for the 2014 race and you can read my fan blog here.

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