Hamilton cruises to victory as crowd numbers swell
11th edition of night race boasts second-highest attendance, signalling F1’s continued appeal
The biggest star of Formula One, Lewis Hamilton, delivered a masterclass drive yesterday to win the Singapore Airlines Singapore Grand Prix and, fittingly, it came as crowd figures signalled that the race’s appeal remains as strong as ever.
It may be the 11th edition but this year’s night race drew 263,000 fans over the three days, the second-highest attendance recorded after 300,000 attended the inaugu- ral race in 2008.
Race promoters Singapore GP noted that this year’s numbers were a 3.5 per cent increase over the average of the past 10 races, and attributed the jump to its offerings, such as its enhanced Paddock Club and hospitality suite, familyfriendly initiatives and strong entertainment acts that included Taiwanese musician Jay Chou, British singer Dua Lipa and American rock band The Killers.
Former national football captain Aide Iskandar, 43, watched his sixth night race at one of the suites and was impressed.
He said: “It was a very good experience and I managed to soak in the experience with a good view. The level of service was very high and the cushioning in the leather seats is an improvement.”
Such trends bode well for the Republic, which last year extended its contract to host the race until 2021.
Then Minister for Trade and Industry (Industry) S. Iswaran had revealed that the 10 years of staging the event had led to more than 450,000 international visitors, who contributed about $1.4 billion in incremental tourism receipts.
Mr Iswaran, who is now Minister for Communications and Information, also noted that the annual cost had come down to $135 million from $150 million.
The continued popularity of F1, in the face of the rise of mixed martial arts and eSports which are geared to younger audiences, had been questioned in recent years.
But Liberty Media, which spent US$8 billion (S$11 billion) in September 2016 to take over F1, has taken steps to address this.
A new concept car, slated for 2021, was unveiled last Friday, while the new owners have also focused on expanding the sport’s social media presence in the hope of targeting millennials.
Such moves have borne fruit. According to an F1 report last December, about 4.07 million spectators attended the 20 races last season. This was an 8.77 per cent increase from the previous year’s total of 3.74 million.
And judging by the huge number of British flags and Mercedes kits across the Marina Bay Street Circuit, it was clear who the majority of fans had come to see.
A delighted but exhausted Hamilton, who started on pole position, said after taking the chequered flag: “I have such great support here... The fans here – a lot of British guys came up here to Singapore. So thank you.
“I am spent. It was such a tough race. I had a great start; it felt like the longest race in my life. Max (Verstappen) had a great race as well but what a day, what a weekend.”
Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton leading the pack at the Marina Bay Street Circuit last night. Singapore GP attributed this year’s jump in attendance to its offerings, such as family-friendly initiatives and strong entertainment acts.