Global music superstars Beyonce, The Black Eyed Peas, Simple Minds, ZZ Top and N.E.R.D have all been lined up by F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone to rock the weekend of the Singapore Grand Prix next month – though ticket sales for the island city-state's second race are still struggling to get off the starting grid.
The worlds of music and motorsport are far from strangers to each other, with pop and rock stars frequently to be found in the paddock at grand prix weekends – amongst them Kylie Minogue, Simply Red front man Mick Hucknall and Chris Rea – and reigning world champion and Hungarian Grand Prix winner Lewis Hamilton stepping out with his Pussycat Doll girlfriend Nicole Scherzinger.
Now, the top flight's influential commercial rights-holder Ecclestone has launched 'F1 Rocks', an international grand prix musical and televisual extravaganza due to make its bow over the weekend of 24-26 September at Singapore's Marina Bay street circuit, where drivers will take to the track at twilight for one of the most spectacular events on the annual calendar.
The series of concerts is the result of a collaboration between the Formula One Management (FOM) chief executive and music giant Universal, with 'F1 Rocks' and its star-studded line-ups set to add to the atmosphere at eight more races over this season and next.
“It's exciting and something I have been thinking about for an awful long time,” Ecclestone told British newspaper the Daily Mirror
. “Drivers are rock stars. The slight difference is they risk their lives. Musicians love racing and drivers love music. I really like music, especially Frank Sinatra.”
The concerts will be broadcast around the world in some 188 countries, and will be complemented by a behind-the-scenes 'F1 Rocks Singapore' programme, featuring Hamilton and Brawn GP's current world championship leader Jenson Button.
The new initiative may be needed, indeed, off the back of revelations that with less than two months to go before the 2009 Singapore Grand Prix, ticket sales to-date have been far from plentiful. The lack of take-up – both amongst spectators and corporate organisations seeking special hospitality packages – has been blamed on the global economic downturn, the long-running and only recently-resolved political stand-off between governing body the FIA and the Formula One Teams' Association and BMW's sudden withdrawal announcement last week.
The number of hospitality suites at the track has been reduced from 180 to 160, with 76 per cent of hospitality tickets having been sold so far, according to local newspaper the Straits Times
. Overall sales are understood to be down on last year, but Singapore Grand Prix senior consultant Harry Apostolides insisted that he remained confident targets would be met, with an increase in regional advertising and a significant degree of interest from overseas, having received travel agent enquiries from the Middle East and South Africa amongst others.
“We are seeing corporate bookings beginning to pick up,” Mr. Apostolides reported, “and the Paddock Club is filling up as well.”