Hamil­ton cruises to vic­tory as crowd numbers swell

11th edi­tion of night race boasts sec­ond-high­est at­ten­dance, sig­nalling F1’s con­tin­ued ap­peal

The Straits Times - - TOPOF THE NEWS - Wang Meng Meng

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.”

ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

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.

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