This article has been a long time coming, but nonetheless, must be written and told if only to preserve memories. While living in the Malaysian metropolis of Kuala Lumpur for the last 5 years, I was close enough to the local edition of the Formula 1 in Sepang Circuit. I was always interested in racing despite not having seen the race up close and live. Finally the opportunity presented itself when we scheduled a trip to Italy and the French Riviera a summer ago. I’ve always insisted on seeing the Monaco Grand Prix first before anything else. After all, the Monaco Grand Prix is an absolute classic and I have a soft spot for nostalgia. The Circuit de Monaco has played host to the race since 1929 and is regarded one of the most important races in the world aside from the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the Indy 500. Based on its locality, it is also considered as the most glamorous among all the F1 races in the calendar. With the beautiful boats moored in its harbour, casinos, and its resident international jet set- Monaco is definitely one of the world’s playgrounds of the rich and famous.
The narrow streets of Monaco is a challenging track with many elevation changes and tight corners and often necessitates a safety car. It is the only Grand Prix that falls short of the mandated 305-kilometre minimum race distance.
We bought the tickets directly online from Automobile Club de Monaco, settling in with Tribune K tickets with unrestricted views of the yachts and the harbour. If you love sweeping views, this is undoubtedly the classic choice. For 2 seats, we paid around 1,020 Euros. The other seats that might rival those of Tribune K would be Tribune B at the Casino Square, where race cars would go in front of the iconic Monte Carlo Casino. Unfortunately, the seats were easily filled out as soon as they went on sale, although Tribune K was my first choice (I love yachts so… I was in my perfect spot.).
During race day, we took the train from Nice, where we were staying on our way to Monte Carlo. The train was packed of course with people who are also on their way to watch the race. The train stations were busy and the roads leading to the grandstands exploding in a cacophony of languages from every part of the world. We opted to stay in Nice, as we have never been, as well as that our next stop would have been Rome and we needed to fly out from that city’s airport. Also, we felt most of the nicer accommodations in Monte Carlo was booked out, and those that were still available were overpriced for what they were.
The race itself was a thrill. I was just so incredibly excited with it all: the chatter, the sound of the roaring engines, the summer sun on my skin, the cold beer down my throat. Eventually the Ferraris won the race 1,2 with Vettel and Raikkonen trailed by Hamilton. On our way back, we walked around the narrow streets of the Principality, which are frankly not much different from most seaside cities of the Rivieras. No offense to my Monagasque readers, but I do think other cities are much prettier in the area- although the harbour area is definitely stunning and unforgettable.
Closer to home lies another innovative and exciting race, that of Singapore’s. Not only it is the first street circuit in Asia, it is also the first night race in the F1 calendar. Unbeknownst to many, the first grand prix in Singapore was held in 1961 with the race originally known as the Orient Year Grand Prix with the following year renamed as the Malaysian Grand Prix. When Singapore attained its independence in 1965, the circuit was renamed to the Singapore Grand Prix. However, due to a variety of factors (fatal crashes, inconvenience, unsuitability of the track), the race was discontinued after 1973.
The Marina Bay Circuit was inaugurated in 2008 with the 15th round of the 2008 FIA Formula One World Championships. Fast forward many years later, we finally made it to the Singapore Grand Prix. I wasn’t looking forward to the unbearable humidity of the city-state, and to be honest, really had no expectations except having to get my Jollibee fix (yes, THAT Filipino fast food that is still not in Malaysia), the much controversial nasi lemak burger and the newly minted Michelin starred hawker stalls - and of course the novelty of the night race.
Despite having very low expectations, we were thoroughly impressed with the organisers of the event and the quality of world-class entertainment at the race grounds. As I have a very keen bias for views, we picked Bay Grandstand with a sweeping view of the city’s spectacular skyline. It was much, much cheaper than the Monte Carlo race (SGD 612.00) for a three-day event. It was very well-organised, the flow of people seamless, unlike the chaos of Monte Carlo. There was ambulant entertainment, so there was always something happening in most parts of the venue. We forgot to bring a raincoat and it started to pour down like madness just right before the actual race started. Walking back to my seat, I slipped and fell- breaking my camera’s lens hood and hurting my lower back in the process.
Pain aside, I hurriedly went back to my seat just in time to see the first corner collision of Sebastian Vettel and teammate Kimi Raikkonen as well as that of Red Bull’s Max Verstappen which took all 3 out of the race, and led to a Mercedes win by Lewis Hamilton.