Bernie Ecclestone has enthusiastically praised the venue for this weekend's Singapore Grand Prix – the first race in Formula 1's 58-year history to be run after dark and under spotlights – as being 'without doubt the best in the world'.
The event has thus far been hailed a considerable success – not to mention a healthy antidote to the current global credit crunch [see separate story – click here
] – even if drivers do retain a few ongoing concerns, not least about what would happen should the 1,500, ten-metre high projectors lining the track suddenly go out.
“It's not quite like a football game,” explained McLaren-Mercedes star Heikki Kovalainen, quoted by British newspaper the Independent
. “If the lights go off we can't just stop and see how it's going, so that obviously could be very dangerous, but I think it's been very well taken care of – hopefully.”
“Yeah, it's obvious,” agreed Red Bull Racing ace Mark Webber. “If the lights go off, we're in trouble – but I think we're in good shape that that doesn't happen…hopefully, touch wood.”
The inaugural night-time grand prix around the 23 challenging turns of the Marina Bay Street Circuit is a venture on which both Ecclestone and Singaporean property billionaire Ong Beng Seng have been working for some time. Moreover, with the evening schedule ensuring a far more favourable television slot for European viewing audiences, F1's major international sponsors are happier too – of pivotal importance when, in the current economic climate of belt-tightening, few new ones are willing to invest in what is the most expensive sport in the world.
“I do hope that people have now changed their minds that this is a stupid idea,” Ecclestone remarked.
“We are never likely to get the World Cup or the Olympics,” added Jonathan Hallett, media and communications director for Singapore GP Pte Ltd, “so we need to understand our limitations and the grand prix is perfect for us.
“This is going to be the most major event in the city. The timing has been the most challenging aspect, and we started a year ago. The other big thing is that this is a living, breathing city, and it is funding the project to the tune of 60 per cent, to showcase Singapore. That's why, obviously, it has to run by familiar monuments and landmarks.
“The planning and logistics of how we were going to build the track without disrupting commerce was something we had to consider very carefully. As you can see, where the track runs is right in the middle of all the office blocks and they are always very busy.”