I am definitely not a car racing person, but before we even moved here I was kind of excited about the F1 weekend. In Australia they used to broadcast a pre-packaged Singapore F1 highlights show that the tourism board must have paid for. We must have seen the one from 2009, because they hired Lindsay Lohan to MC it (so ridiculous!) and No Doubt appeared to be the headlining musical act. Note that I have zero recollection of what happened in that race, I just knew there was a huge buzz around the city and a bunch of different concerts to choose from.
As I mentioned last week, there literally was a buzz in the air, which I could hear even from the 34th story of my office building. It started right around 3:30 in the afternoon, and continued for the rest of the night. Naturally I had a bunch of work to do and ending up staying until about 7 pm; there’s nothing like the constant drone of car engines to put you on edge, I can now say that with certainty. Anyway, when I finally left the office I made my way over to the Esplanade to meet the hubs for dinner. I was kind of shocked at how orderly and un-crowded everything was. Check out this super-clear signage:
Whenever I’ve attended a big sporting event in Boston, for instance, the subway is always clogged before and after a game, to the point that stampede seems like a legitimate threat. It never seems to take less than an hour to exit a stadium. In Singapore, on the other hand, I easily found my seat in the Marina Bay Grandstand, walked out whistling, and rode a half-empty subway home with ease. There were local guides stationed about every 10 feet or so, ready to give directions and hand out free maps. Throughout the weekend I couldn’t stop marveling at how well-organized it all was, such a highlight.
On Saturday afternoon the hubs and I went to Millennia Walk to watch some rugby, then moseyed over to our seats to watch some Porsche Series Racing. I think I liked it a bit better both because the cars are quieter, and because it was kind of neat to see real-looking cars hurtling their way around Singapore’s streets at super-fast speeds. The race was also a lot closer than Sunday night’s Grand Prix would turn out to be, but more on that later. The late afternoon light was also just really gorgeous.
For dinner we headed over to the giant “Hawker Village” that was set up on the Padang, replete with uber-Singaporean stalls like The Mexican, Barossa Wine Bar and Quiznos, ha. Meanwhile, a French drumming group called Transe Express (decked out in colonial uniforms and face paint – sure why not?) performed while suspended about 120 feet in the air. To give it an extra Cirque du Soleil twist, a contortionist also did tricks at the top of their hanging pyramid. Tres Random!
From these guys, to the wandering African stilt dancers Frititi, to the Jaipur Maharaja Brass Band, I really enjoyed the wandering entertainment aspect of the weekend. It created a fair-like atmosphere that almost reminded me of a summer concert festival back home or something. I’m not sure what it had to do with car racing perse, but I was happy to take it all the same.
After eating (and re-upping on beers at the Tiger tent) we met up with some friends who’d scored a good spot in front of the video screens for the Shakira concert. I’ve always loved concerts and think just about any music can be enjoyable when performed live, so the show was good enough, but I maintain that it was about 60% Shakira gyrating, tossing her hair, and making come-hither looks into the camera, and 40% singing. Therefore I think as a dude I probably would have enjoyed it more. I only knew a few of her songs, so obviously the highlight for me was “Hips Don’t Lie.” It always cracks me up when you go to a concert and a band plays one of their hit songs that features a guest appearance by another big name artist, but they understandably have to bring in someone else to do those parts (side note: I think my life would be complete if I went to a show and the featured artist surprised everyone by coming out on stage to do their part. How exciting would that be?). Anyway, Wyclef Jean apparently couldn’t make it to Singapore, so Shakira brought in some dude who just looked like him, with slightly longer hair:
After the Shakira concert ended the F1 drivers did qualifying laps. We considered going back to our seats, but instead hung around the Padang (where we could definitely still hear the cars, even if we couldn’t see them) in hopes of getting a good spot for the Shaggy concert. We also hit up the Tiger Beer stand a few more times. Apparently Miller has no claim on the whole “It’s Millertime!” slogan outside the U.S.:
Or maybe that’s why Tiger had to illustrate the phrase with their logo, I dunno. At one point while the hubs was getting beer, I noticed lots of dudes posing with a roving pair of Tiger girls. They were probably slightly weirded out by me – clearly not a dude – asking to take their picture, but oh well. Tiger-themed dresses!
Anyway, as I’ve probably mentioned before I’m a huge reggae fan and love Jamaica in general. Shaggy is hardly a pure reggae artist, but I generally enjoy his music and was looking forward to his concert more than any of the other musical acts featured over the weekend. A couple friends and I managed to sweet talk our way into the special fan area right in front of the stage (thank you pushover bouncer guy, wherever you are!), then made our way up to almost right in front of the stage. It was SO worth it. I was familiar with about half the songs he performed, but he just did a great job of getting the crowd pumped up and playing music that you couldn’t help but want to dance to. I think he played for about 90 minutes or so, and I spent almost the entire time jumping up and down, screaming my head off, and waving my hands in the air. It was probably the best workout I’ve had in Singapore; not to be gross, but my dress was completely soaked through with sweat.
The show finished at around 1am or so, meaning I basically sleepwalked my way home before passing out for the night. We definitely took it easy on Sunday morning, but eventually headed out to meet up with friends for drinks and dinner before the main F1 race at 8pm.
Unlike on Friday and Saturday when the Bay Grandstand was only about 1/3 full, it was completely packed. I know that there are people in the US who are insane about Nascar, but I’d never been to a car race before and witnessed firsthand all the people in jerseys to support the various racing teams. To me it seems funny to put individual drivers operating machines on par with your favorite football or basketball player, but I suppose like Jerry Seinfeld once said we’re basically all just rooting for laundry anyway. I mostly saw Red Bull and Ferrari jerseys, but my favorites were the fans sporting flags to show support for their favorite drivers, like this guy (getting a very stern pat down from security at the gate) supporting Mark Webber:
Before living abroad the only F1 driver I’d ever heard of was Michael Schumacher, and that’s only because he always seemed to be on lists comparing the world’s richest athletes. I had a vague awareness of Lewis Hamilton when he came on the scene since he was considered the Tiger Woods of car racing (and since he dates an American celebrity), but Mark Webber (must be prounounced “Mahhhk Wibbah” with a true Aussie accent) was so beloved in Australia that I couldn’t help but take a liking to him. Plus, at some point in Australia we became huge Top Gear fans, and I think Webber came across as a lot more likeable n his appearance than Jenson Button. And he’s got such a strong chin, how could he be anything but a race car driver?!
So that’s who I chose to root for primarily, since he actually stood a chance of winning. More passively I chose to support Team Lotus (I don’t think they’re very good), which is headquartered in Hingham, England. We Hinghamites have to look out for one another, after all.
Sadly, the race wasn’t particularly thrilling, as Webber’s teammate Sebastian Vettel led wire to wire (or whatever the car racing equivalent is). I guess some other exciting stuff happened (Michael Schumacher crashed into a wall? Lewis Hamilton rear-ended someone or something?), but it didn’t happen in front of us, so…meh. If you’re a Vettel or Red Bull fan I guess it was a great night since he basically wrapped up the season championship already. Honestly, for me it was just really loud cars driving by every couple minutes. But it was all worth it because the hubs LOVED every second of it. After the race ended we were even able to walk on the actual track, where we could see bits of tires that had disintegrated, as well as some crazy skid marks:
Once again, there was just such a wonderful energy to the city during the entire three days of the event, and I would have suffered from major FOMO (fear of missing out) if I’d had to avoid it while seemingly every other expat partook in the various festivities. I think Singapore really shone during its moment in the world sporting spotlight, and I was thrilled to be a part of it.