Singapore F1 is a heart-racing race

Last Sunday night, I watched the Singapore Grand Prix on TV. Red lights blinked. Skid marks inked the road. Tires squeaked. Katy Perry covered her ears.

At exactly 8:00 P.M., Singapore was pitch-dark but the 5-kilometer race track — along the main streets of Singapore — was lighted as day. The giant Ferris wheel (Singapore Flyer), named the world’s largest, rotated. The Durian building called the Esplanade was painted blue. The Marina Bay Sands Hotel and Casino, one of this planet’s glitziest, stood on three legs.

What a night. What a weekend. What a party. What a race. Lewis Hamilton started at the No.1 spot. The Englishman was expected to win. It’s difficult to manuever and overtake in Singapore’s twisted route. Yet, sadly for the McLaren star and the boyfriend of Nicole Scherzinger, he aborted the race. His engine failed midway.

Jenson Button? The “adopted Cebuano” and speedy triathlete (he ranked 3rd in his 30-34 age bracket at the recent Cobra Ironman 70.3 race in Mactan) was pushing his Mercedes engine to the extreme limit. With Jessica Michibata waiting and clapping at the finish line, he would finish… Not first… but second. Not bad.

Sebastian Vettel, the 2010 and 2011 world champion and the defending champion in Singapore, proved that he’s aiming for that three-peat. He capitalized on Hamilton’s misfortune to win last Sunday.

Formula One is scary. The margin for error is infinitesimal. Traveling at speeds close to 300 kilometers per hour, the low-flying cars zoom and dash. They sail. Propelled by jetplane-like engines, they don’t drift — they fly.

In this sport, the cliché, “Every second counts,” doesn’t apply. What’s applicable is this: “Every millisecond counts.”

If you watched the race, then you witnessed the crash of Michael Schumacher. Trailing Jean-Eric Vergne right before a turn, he stepped-on the brakes — but they didn’t work. He smashed the rear of Vergne. Ouch. Metal flew.

Lewis Hamilton? Luoy kaayo. As hard as he tried, he failed. Or, rather, he had “equipment failure” as his gearbox conked-out. At Lap 23, smoke billowed from his rear as the TV announcer explained, “That’s the sound of the gearbox eating itself up!” Oh no. From 299-kph to zero.

To me, the most amazing part of this speedy race is when they stop – at the Pit Stop. Can you believe that, in 3.1 seconds, they manage to change all four tires? Yep, all in 3.1 seconds!

The winner in Singapore last weekend? Sure, Vettel was sprinkled wet with champagne. But the champion is… guess who… Singapore.

An estimated 40,000 tourists flew to The Lion City last week and generated about S$150 million in tourism revenue (in pesos, that’s close to P5 billion — just for one event).

In all, Singapore forecasts that, by 2015, a total of 17 million tourists will flock annually to their tiny island. (This is a staggering number as our Philippine tourists only number 4 million per year. This means that Singapore, with a population of only 5 million, generates four times as many tourists.)

Why do so many go to the Singapore F1? It’s not only because of the race. Well, sure, damaging your eardrums as the engines roar and watching these matchboxes zoom-by in a millisecond is fun. But the real reason: it’s an entire weekend of partying.

Katy Perry. Maroon 5. Bananarama. Jay Chou (Jay who?). The Pretenders. They headline a list of artists who trooped to the island. Imagine this: right after watching the race conclude at exactly 10 P.M. last Sunday, thousands hopped over to the next open lot to watch, by 11 P.M., the concert of Katy Perry. That’s back-to-back entertainment. That’s called partying.

If you log-in Facebook, you’ll see plenty of friends (this includes my brother Charlie and his wife Mitzi) who flew last Friday for a mix of Formula 1 and their world-famous drink, Singapore Sling. I call their whole trip: Sleepless in Singapore.

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