There was a time when watching the Grand Prix in Singapore meant having to brave the heat of the afternoon sun on the muddy tree lined slopes of Old Upper Thomson Road. Being run over the Easter weekend, going to the races offered a young boy something to look forward to besides Easter eggs, hot cross buns and the tedium of the very long Good Friday services and vigil masses that my grandmother was fond of dragging me to. I always looked forward to accompanying my father, his trusty old thermos flask filled to the brim with thick black coffee, and a thick wad of old newspapers, to the slopes which offered a glimpse of the cars and motorcycles that sped by as they made their way through the narrow and treacherous three mile street circuit.
That was a time when life I guess, was a little simpler, when we were content just to be able to catch the action up close, sitting on a piece of newsprint which protected our clothes from being soiled by the mud underneath. Most of us probably wouldn’t have thought of spending the seemingly exorbitant sums involved with watching the GP these days.
The original Singapore GP had started off as the Orient Year Grand Prix in 1961, being renamed the Malaysian Grand Prix in 1962, and after independence, the Singapore Grand Prix. The GP was run right up to 1973, following which concerns about safety – there having had been seven fatalities and numerous injuries up to that point, and the negative influence it was thought to have on the driving habits of the local motorists, saw it being banned. It was not until 2008 when the GP was reintroduced, with the lure of the money and glamour that the sport brings to it host cities an overriding factor. The reintroduction has also given the F1 GP season its first and only night race – run on a street circuit that brings spectacular views of the illuminated Singapore skyline. The inaugural race received some mixed reactions and even some drama with one personality even describing the night race as a circus.
I suppose one does have a choice of how to catch the race these days … spending close to nothing catching the action from the comfort of one’s armchair in one’s living room or perhaps forking out a relatively small sum of money to walk the race track or a more painful sum to be seated at the grandstands … for the more fortunate, there is of course the ridiculous sums that one has to pay to get into the Paddock Club. There is also that chance you can get your hands on an invitation to one of the team’s hospitality suites … where the contrast with that muddy slope I sat on more than three decades ago, couldn’t be more apparent …