Category Archives: Formula One

Formula One

Interesting times for F1. Malaysia will host their last Grand Prix race this 2017. After Eddie Irvine won the inaugural event at Sepang in 1999, this October will be the final race. The reason? According to BBC: “Malaysia had struggled in recent years to attract a significant crowd, its appeal damaged by the more glamorous night-time event on a street track in Singapore.”

Speaking of Singapore, they’re not sure yet of being part of the 2018 calendar. When next year’s schedule was announced, Malaysia was deleted and asterisks were attached beside the names “China” and “Singapore.”

April 8, 2018 is the Shanghai F1 race but that’s uncertain. Same with Singapore, which has hosted the night party since 2008. Will racing aficionados witness three Asian countries doing a pit stop (stopping) next year? Let’s see. As to the 2017 season, it can’t get any more thrilling.

Justin Alfafara, a long time F1 fanatic, commented on the eight races thus far this season.

“It’s been more exciting compared to the previous Mercedes dominant era and the Red Bull dominant era prior to that,” Justin said. “Although Mercedes is still the team to beat, Ferrari are not far behind and are leading in the championship.”

Sebastian Vettel is leading with 153 points followed by Lewis Hamilton’s 139. There are still 12 races to go so plenty of fight. Talking of fights, one erupted last Sunday during the Azerbaijan Grand Prix and it was a spectacle. Vettel bumped Hamilton’s rear and side. Are we watching a game of bump-cars?

“Hamilton was just doing what any driver up front would do,” Justin said. “The Safety Car was exiting at the end of that lap and ANY driver leading the pack would always slow down and bunch up the rest of the pack so that the Safety Car can exit in a clean manner and not get in his way when normal race speed resumes; he did that also during the previous Safety Car session.”

“Based on the footage, Vettel was following way too close to begin with so naturally, when Hamilton slowed down at that corner, Vettel collided with him. In the heat of the moment, Vettel (usually one who does not man up to his mistakes) took that as a sign of aggression and went alongside Hamilton, raised his hand in anger and turned into Hamilton in retaliation. Now, the FIA stewards have access to the telemetry data on all the cars and it did show that Hamilton DID NOT brake test Vettel at all. So simply put, Vettel was at fault.”

I don’t follow every F1 race but that video footage got me awakened. Justin continues his commentary for this season: “What surprised me is the rest of the mid field teams and the backmarker teams are also in a position to challenge each other. With the exception of the Baku Grand Prix (a fluke and the season’s craziest race), the win is just between Mercedes and Ferrari; but the midfield racing is intense.

“A lot of younger drivers on the same grid with seasoned veterans, throw into the mix team orders, off track politics, engines blowing up constantly, inconsistent steward penalties; we’ve got teammate wars in Red Bull, Force India and Sauber, the ever present Bottas-Raikonnen collisions, and the Hamilton-Vettel rivalry.. these have spiced up the racing.” 

In addition, Justin is hoping that Max Verstappen is given a reliable car and can win some races. “Force India has been strong lately and have their own war between their drivers,” he said. “I hope their in-team rivalry will also get in the way of Lewis and Vettel like they have the past few races and make the racing upfront more unpredictable.” 

Rosberg quits

Days after he was crowned F1 champion, Nico Rosberg called it quits. Shocking! For the Mercedes-Benz team managers, just when they experienced the high of a one-two (Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton) sweep, it’s a brisk goodbye. It’s like Leonardo de Caprio bagging an Oscar then saying adios. Or Adele topping the Billboards chart then never singing again. Or Bjorn Borg, age 26, walking away from tennis.

Wait, the last sentence came true. But before we talk about the Swede, let’s analyze the German’s move. Only 31, why would anyone want to retire this young?

“Lewis Hamilton lost the battle but won the war,” Kevin Eason of The Times wrote. “He dominated Nico Rosberg from karting to the ultimate in Formula 1 and when the German finally won his world championship, the strain was so great that he had to walk away from the sport.”

Rosberg admits to the overbearing pressure, saying: “It was unbelievably intense. It is indescribable the last four races. It was my championship to lose and the last race was the toughest thing I have ever done – except from watching my wife suffer through the birth of our daughter. That was a whole another level!”

He’s also reached the Mt. Summit of motor-racing and, once you ascend the world’s tallest peak, there’s nothing higher to climb.

“Since I was six years old when I started out the dream was very clear – that was becoming a Formula 1 world champion. That is what I pursued all along, and it is mission accomplished for me. I’ve done it,” Rosberg said. “It is a dream come true – and now I move on to other things. Let’s see what the future holds – I will follow my heart.”

Rosberg is not the first athlete to retire young and at his peak. Magic Johnson was 32 when he left the NBA. His, of course, was a different story as he was diagnosed with HIV. Rocky Marciano was another. After winning 49 of 49 fights (with 43 knockouts), he stopped at the age of 32. Sadly, 13 years later, he died from a plane crash. Isiah Thomas also quit at 32 after leading the Detroit Pistons to NBA crowns. Yao Ming, plagued with injury, quit at 30. But to me the most bizarre was Bjorn Borg’s stoppage at 26. Imagine how many more majors he would have added (to his 11) had he played for, say, 10 more years. He’d handily be the greatest netter in history.

With Rosberg, I’m sure he’ll be back. After the gloss of the F1 trophy has faded and his competitive juices start revving his heart and blood stream, he’ll return. This time, for sure, not paired with Lewis.

A sportsman who is unsportsmanlike

And the winner is… ?

Lewis Hamilton. Yes, the 31-year-old British Formula One rider won the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix race last Sunday. It was his fourth straight pole-to-win triumph (including Texas, Mexico City and Sao Paulo) and he amassed 10 victories this 2016.

So, Lewis Hamilton is the champion, right? Wrong. To me, he’s a selfish, me-alone person who’s engrossed only with himself.

Here’s the story: Nico Rosberg and Hamilton are teammates in the Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 team. In the March 20 until November 27 season, there are 11 Formula One teams. How many members are allowed per squad?

Only two. And these teammates are expected to be friends, partners and should collaborate, right? No. In fact, if you secretly ask Lewis who he despises the most, chances are he’ll whisper the name of someone who’s just five months younger than him and someone with whome he’s raced with in go-karting since they were teenagers. That’s Nico. On paper, Hamilton and Rosberg are allies under Mercedes; in reality, they’re villains.

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The 2016 Formula One season has 21 races. Entering the last event in Abu Dhabi, Rosberg was leading his teammate by a measly 12 points. The only way for Hamilton to win this third consecutive F1 World Champion title was to finish first (and get 25 points) and for Rosberg to finish in fourth place or worse.

I don’t have space to elaborate on the blow-by-blow drama that I saw on TV two nights ago but here’s the summary: Towards the end, Hamilton purposely slowed down not because he wanted the second-place running Rosberg to overtake him, but to draw Seb Vettel, Max Verstappen and the others closer with the hope that they’d overtake Rosberg so he’ll drop to fourth place. It wasn’t meant to be.

Rosberg, criticized in the past for being a perennial runner-up to Hamilton and for succumbing to pressure and losing, placed 2nd. In the end, Hamilton won the fight but Rosberg won the war.

“It was a tricky situation at the end with Lewis playing dirty tricks,” Vettel said over the radio as he finished third.

During the race, Hamilton was repeatedly instructed to speed up. Instead, he slowed down to defy team orders — including a final-lap dilly-dallying move where he was 9-seconds-slower (than his pole lap).

“Right now, I’m losing the world championship,” Hamilton said. “So I’m not bothered if I’m going to lose the race.”

Now, I understand this is sport. It’s a winner-take-all arena where all the accolades never go to the “first loser.” As Bobby Unser, another race car driver, once said: “Nobody remembers who finished second but the guy who finished second.”

And the ultra-competitive 3-time world champ that he is, losing does not run in Hamilton’s blood-thirsty veins. And this is F1, a venue that has witnessed countless dirty antics played since its first season in 1950.

Still, what an act of defiance. Even the Mercedes chief Toto Wolff was disappointed.

“I need to form an opinion, which I haven’t yet,” Wolff said. “Undermining a structure in public means you are putting yourself before the team.”

Hamiton’s actions were ugly. Yet, despite his colleague’s self-centered actions, what did the new 2016 world champ say after?

“You can understand the team’s perspective, and you can understand Lewis’s perspective — so that’s it,” Rosberg said, ending the controversy and refusing to say bad things about Hamilton. What a classy act, Nico.

Reminds me of someone who watched live the Abu Dhabi race last Sunday.

That’s Roger Federer. Of all the great athletes that have sweated on this planet, Roger would rank high up in the “Best and Most Humble Sportsman” award. (The 35-year-old was voted by his colleagues to receive the Stefan Edberg Sportsmanship Award for a 12th time!)

One of my all-time favorite quotes — and one that I hope Lewis Hamilton will heed — were these words uttered by Roger: “It’s nice to be important but it’s more important to be nice.”

One expert on Formula One

Justin Alfafara is a lifelong F1 fanatic. “My life and work schedule revolve around the F1 weekend calendar,” he told me. “I’ve probably missed watching only 9 races the past 10 years.” Last Sept. and together with friends Francesca Arambulo, Anton Villacin, Jude Flores, Chomeng Marquez, Jenina Jordana Marquez, Clyde Cogal, Casey Siao and John Ngo, he flew to watch his third straight Singapore GP. Here’s Justin’s expert commentary:

SINGAPORE: “The experience was different from the previous races because of the new engine regulations. This year, we saw a dramatic decrease in the noise reduction produced by the engines (which are now called Power Units because of the hybrid technology). This was due to a reduction in engine size from V8 to V6 with twin turbo and electric motor powered by E.R.S. The sound produced was very subdued. We can hear the turbo blow off and the screeching of the tires. We could have a conversation with each other and there was no need for ear plugs.”

REVIEWS THIS YEAR: “It’s safe to say probably half of the drivers embrace the new regulations and development in technology. However, fans and critics all long for the old sound of the V10 and V8 era engines. Most drivers don’t like the ‘long life’ engine rule which sees them having to manage only 5 power units for the season; a few years ago, they would have a brand new engine every race. Instead of racing on the edge, drivers are now forced take it down a few notches in order to manage their tires, fuel, engine and gearboxes. The playing field has leveled out due to the restrictions. Now, the smaller teams have a fighting chance against the legendary giants, but at the same time limiting the capabilities of the drivers because they have to nurse their cars for them to last an entire race. I believe this goes against F1 being ‘The Pinnacle of Motorsport.’”

VETTEL: “Seb has been dominant the past few years mainly because of the car that Adrian Newey developed under those regulations. However, with the change this year, the engine supplier of Red Bull Racing (Renault) was caught unprepared. Same with Ferrari, who are underperforming in spite of their superstar all-world champion drivers. Not only has Vettel been dealt with an inferior engine, but he has also been outperformed by his younger teammate Daniel Ricciardo.”

HAMILTON V. ROSBERG: “They started out as good friends but the intensity of competition and that hunger for the world title has brought out their true colors. Friendship comes 2nd to being world champion. I think at this point, Mercedes will choose to back one driver and that’s Hamilton; but Rosberg will put up an intense fight.”

GOOD SEASON? “For the fans… Hmmm… personally, there is a lack of excitement because of the quieter cars and the drivers tiptoeing just to finish a race. Not to mention the dominance of Mercedes; it’s a tad bit boring knowing who will win every time; but racing for 3rd place and below seems to be better with a lot of bold overtakes and gut-wrenching moves. Surprise? The rookies are all outperforming their veteran team mates.”

2015: “Next year we will see how good Vettel is when he moves to Ferrari. There are rumors that they will introduce the 3-cars-per-team configuration as there are two teams that are already bankrupt, and three more that are struggling financially. There’s a need for 22 cars on the grid and without those teams, they might have to introduce the 3 car configuration. There are also rumors that there might be some changes to the look of the F1 car by adding safety features due to the accident of Jules Bianchi. There is even talk about a closed canopy, but I doubt that would happen. The return of the legendary Honda-McLaren tie-up. Honda will rejoin F1 with their iconic partner, McLaren. Everyone is excited to see if they can revive their glory days. With Vettel to Ferrari, nobody knows where Fernando Alonso will end up. Some say McLaren, some say he will take a sabbatical from the sport and race in Le Mans.”

Day one of Formula One

Gentlemen, start your engines! It’s Melbourne, Australia for the first of 19 Grand Prix races this 2014. F1 racing isn’t young. It’s 64 years old. But, beginning today, the organizers will enforce new rules that are some of the most revolutionary in decades.

Among the changes, they’ll a) reduce the noise, b)  transform the engine into a smaller 6-cylinder version (for the first time in a quarter century, turbocharged 1.6-liter V6 engines will replace the V8s and V10s.), and c) lessen the fuel storage to 100 kilograms. All these start today for the 22 cars that will rev their engines on the 5.3-km. Albert Park street circuit.

I’m no technical car expert. But, from my readings on the rules modifications, they’re massive. It includes giving the last race of the 2014 season, the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in November, double the points. While a race win is worth 25 points, it will be 50 in Abu Dhabi. The reason: to transform that final race into a nail-biting finale.

The past four years, two names — Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull — have dominated F1 racing, winning from 2010 to 2013. This year is uncertain. And this appears to be the most exciting question: Can Vettel do it again? He’s often relied on his Renault-powered car and his team, led by Christian Horner. Not now.

Why all these substantial changes? Jean Todt, the president of the International Automobile Federation, the sport’s governing body, said, “We have to consider the environment, even if it’s clear that these 22 Formula One cars alone are not going to increase the pollution in the world or in a city on a circuit. But auto racing is a show window of technology, economics and industry.”

What he means is this: F1 is hugely popular, it attracts a TV audience of over half a billion people annually worldwide. And if F1 does good — by tweaking the engines to emit less noise and pollution — then the audience, too, will take notice and do the same with their own cars. People will care more for the environment.

Consider their “Formula E” concept which begins this September. Only electric racing cars (all looking like F1 supercars) are allowed to compete in 10 cities including London, L.A., Beijing and Putrajaya in Malaysia. They might as well call that…  E1!

I got hold of a copy of the Intl. New York Times “Formula One Preview” Special Report — all of four full pages — and the new rules are plenty. “The new engines are smaller, less powerful, less noisy and more environmentally friendly than any the series has ever produced,” wrote Brad Spurgeon for the Intl. New York Times. “It is with these innovations that Formula One is hoping to maintain its cachet as the producer of the world’s most advanced racing car.”

I recall my brother Charlie, who’s been to the Singapore Grand Prix, explaining to me the deafening roar of these engines. Sure, they’ll still make noise — but no longer screaming loud.

The other changes are immense. They include a “Pole Position trophy” at year’s-end for the driver with, obviously, the most pole positions. Another rule: if a driver goes outside the track limits and overtakes another driver (previously, a five-second penalty was meted) they’ll ask the driver to slow down and let the overtaken driver zoom ahead.

The biggest worry of the racing world? The uncertainty. Many have predicted that worst-case scenarios of slow cars (maybe 10 seconds slower?) or races where over half of the cars breakdown and don’t make it to the finish because of technical trouble.

I’m sure Jenson Button, whom we met here in Cebu two years ago, is one who’s concerned. But this is good. It’s good for Mother Earth. It’s good for the eardrums of the spectators.

“They (new engines) will achieve fuel consumption and performance levels that are much, much better than anything that exists anywhere in the motor sport and probably better than anything that exists on the road,” said Rob White of Renault.

I agree. And I can’t wait for the engines to roar… Today at 2 p.m.

Why is Seb Vettel so good yet so despised?

Only 26, Sebastian Vettel has raced in the Formula One circuit for five years. In his rookie season, he was Runner-Up. After that, he won three straight World Championship titles. And, this 2013, he is gunning for a fourth trophy. That’s 4-of-5.

I’m not sure if any other race car driver — or any other athlete of any sport — has excelled and dominated as the German has. This season, out of 15 of 19 races completed, Vettel has won nine — including the last five: Belgium, Italy, Singapore, Korea and Japan. He has amassed 297 points while second-placer Fernando Alonso has 207. With four races remaining (India, Abu Dhabi, the U.S. and Brazil), Vettel is sure to become the year-end champion. He is the LeBron James of F1. No, I change that: Vettel is even more dominant — and I can’t think of another sportsman who’s more imposing.

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Which brings me these questions: Why is he so disliked? If he’s so good, why is he, in the eyes of millions, so bad?

Charles Osmeña, my long-time friend and a five-time visitor to the Singapore Grand Prix (disclosure: he’s a Ferrari devotee), e-mailed me a thorough explanation. Charles says that while F1 may appear to be individual, it’s actually a team sport. “The team principal, the team engineers, designers, managers, pit crew are as integral to the team’s success as its driver. More so at present,” Charles said. “With all due respect to Seb, the main reason he is so dominant is that his team is the best group assembled. And one of the reasons we haven’t seen how good Seb a driver is, is because his team is at least two steps ahead of its closest competitor.”

On the public’s dislike for Vettel, it’s not limited to just the fans — but also includes his competitors. At the Canadian and Italian Grands Prix and, most recently, in Singapore, after climbing the top podium, Vettel was booed. His fellow competitor Nico Rosberg, after Seb made some unsavory remarks, explained: “Sebastian brings the boos on himself… His comments are aloof… He is running the risk of losing the respect of his fellow drivers.”

Ouch! I asked Mr. Osmeña for his analysis on this dislike for the German champ and he outlined three points:

“A. His team, though dominant and the best group formed for a winning F1 team, is carrying a relatively new brand: Red Bull. Thus, human as we are, and purist as we mostly tend to believe we are, the majority of fans would probably equate this to the Oklahoma Thunder or worse the New Orleans Pelicans dominating the NBA or say the Meralco Volts dominating the PBA or the Azkals dominating the Asian Leagues. There are just too many fans for teams that have been with F1 for more years than his team has staff.

“B. His singular focus on winning highlights a very uncharismatic and selfish nature which is bluntly speaking unpopular. Not to say that Schumi wasn’t singularly and selfishly devoted to winning or Michael Jordan or Tiger Woods but Seb with his unhandsome and annoyingly unkempt, just-hit-puberty, spoiled-brat-looking shell is not exactly a figure most self proclaimed pure F1 fans would relate or much less look up to.

“C. His team being just so freakishly awesome just doesn’t give him the opportunity to show a heroes’ performance of one being in dire straits and yet succeeding. What we’ve always seen with Seb is someone with everything succeeding. Not a very climactic or endearing tale.”

Excellent breakdown, Charles! Well, this fact we know: You cannot please everybody. Even Michael Jordan had his detractors. It just seems that, with Seb, few positives appear on the news — especially when he wins.

Charles ended our exchange with this note: “I’d like to address this to the fans: If all F1 cars were equal and there wouldn’t exist teams and strategies and drivers would be the sole factor in winning, Who would you say the best driver is?”

Experience the Singapore Grand Prix

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Anton Villacin takes the pilgrimage every September. For the past six years, he has never missed watching the Formula One race in The Lion City.

“The plan was just to watch the inaugural race (in 2008),” Anton said, via email, two nights ago. “It being a street night race, we figured it will be more fun than a dedicated race track. It turned out we were right, and we got hooked ever since.”

The “we” of Anton includes his barkada from the Bimmercebu Club — the BMW owners’ group. “We took it one year at a time but never planned it to be 6 of 6,” he said. “The usual suspects in our group, Jude Flores (6 of 6), Charles Osmeña (5 of 6) and Choming Marques (5 of 6), are strong convincing movers of our annual trip.”

In the Sept. 22 (last Sunday) race, the gang grew bigger with the inclusion of Anton’s family (dad Dodong, mom Lelet, and sisters Ella and Louie) plus Harold Siasat, Justin Alfafara, Jenina Marques, Dondee Binoya and Drew Sarmiento.

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Formula 1 racing is one of the world’s most popular of sports. Composed of 22 drivers representing 11 teams, they hop from one country to another and race their cars up to 350 kph. “For us, it’s the thrill and skill that speed brings; no other circuit motorsport is faster,” Anton said. “Second are the stories that evolve from the sport. And lastly it’s the discipline required of each driver and team. As they say, it’s the pinnacle of motorsport racing.”

The Singapore race last weekend was the 13th of 19 races. What started last March 17 in Melbourne, Australia will conclude at the Brazilian Grand Prix on Nov. 24.

Like in any sport, watching “live”is incomparable. “As an F1 fan, or a motorsport fan in general, I suggest you experience F1 live at least once,” Anton said. “Sure, watching it on TV keeps you updated on the goings-on of the race but nothing beats the sound of those v8s, the smell of gasoline around the track, and the energy you get from thousands of screaming fans. Not to mention the trackside spectacles like the sponsors booths, F1 merchandise, concerts and other entertainment. You can’t get all that while sitting in your living room!”

(Ticket prices? From SG$228 for a walkabout ticket to SG$1,288 for a pit grandstand. “This year we got the bay grandstand for $298,” said Anton. In the group, the luckiest were Charles Osmena and Drew Sarmiento, who won a pit tour on Thursday night; both got to see the pits, crews and cars up-close.)

What’s fun about F1 is that it’s an entire weekend of partying. Anton & Co. watched The Killers on Saturday and Rihanna on Sunday after the race. When you visit the website, you’ll be bombarded with dozens of talents, including Tom Jones, Bob Geldof and Justin Bieber.

The 61-lap Singapore race was won by Sebastian Vettel. An Alonso/Ferrari fan, Anton commented on the world champ: “Although we have all respect for Seb and we consider him one of the elite drivers, we’re definitely not fans. In the F1, just like in most motorsports, the team, especially the engineers, is the major reason for winning. Not to take away anything from Seb but he’s very lucky to have a very good team which gives him a very good car. Seb’s clear focus on winning in most of his comments and actions definitely don’t help his popularity, and the ‘Multi 21’ saga in Malaysia just made it worse. We’re not in any position to decide who’s the greatest but Seb will definitely be in a lot of fan debates and conversations for years to come.”

Finally, convincing us to join him next year for his 7-of-7 quest, Anton concluded: “F1 fan or not, it’s one of those events that we recommend others to experience. For the F1 fan it’s one of the nearest for us; it’s one of the few night races and street circuits. Singapore is such a great city to visit. And even if all you do is stay inside the circuit for three days, you’ll be more than entertained with not only the race but all the circuit events around the race, especially the concerts. And while in Singapore don’t forget to indulge in a food trip. Ask Charles for recommendation!”

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——

Got this email from my friend BOBBY LOZADA:

Hi John.

We too were at the GP last Sept. 22. While the Bay Grandstand, mentioned by Anton is a good place to watch the race, it is a slow portion of the track because of the relatively short straight in front of it. Since the Pit Grandstand is horribly expensive, I would suggest buying the Walkabout ticket, where we were (for a considerably lower price than the Bay GS). If you position yourself well, you can watch across the Connaught GS (which is the second costliest GS and priced a little under the Pit GS, the costliest GS).

The straight leading to the Connaught GS and the Walkabout is very long and when the racers reach this GS they are going at full throttle! Believe me, the wail of their engines are deafening in this section! And you may catch the shapes of the lead cars as they pass, but the trailing cars are but just a blur. I loved the scream of the engines at first, but after 30 minutes, I had to stuff my ears with tissue.

Regards,

Bobby

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.

A Grand Prix party awaits the roaring Lion City

SINGAPORE–Yesterday morning at 5:40, I woke up. At this hour here in Singapore, it’s still dark. It felt like 4 A.M. But I got up, dressed, tied my Asics Gel Kayano 17 and jogged towards Orchard Road.
Singapore is clean. Sure, debris litters the asphalted streets–but these are not plastic wrappers or sprinkled garbage but leaves that have fallen from trees.

To many who’ve traveled to this Lion City, this fact you won’t refute: Orchard Road is not only Singapore’s main road (much like our Osmeña Boulevard), but this nation might as well be called Orchard Country.
Singapore is an orchard; it’s all green. As soon as you disembark from the plane and traverse towards the city, all you see is green. Here, trees abound in every corner. Singapore is a forest, a Shangri-La of plants.

What else is here now? Banners proclaiming a giant-size event that is about to rock this nation of 5.1 million people: the Singapore Grand Prix.

The only night race of the Formula One season, the Singapore F1 will be held on September 23. But it’s not only a one-night party–because that entire week is an entertainment feast: Katy Perry is performing, so are Maroon 5 and, if you’re an ‘80s fan, Bananarama and Pretenders.

With only two weeks left, Singapore is revving up its city engines, awaiting the influx of tourists-including my brother Charlie, Mitzi and dozens of others from Cebu–to revel in the race. (In a Puma store at the 313@Sommerset mall, the diehard Ferrari store not only has plenty of red shirts plus BMW apparel, but they’ve also got a new Mercedez Benz-Petronas line featuring Nico Rosberg.)

Jenson Button? Remember him? Cebu’s recent visitor is not in Singapore–not yet–but surely, he’ll be here to try to win. A few weeks back when we had a chance to have dinner together, Jenson talked about this place.

“The Singapore race is amazing,” he said. “It’s very humid. You’re sweating so much. And, because it’s night time, sparks from all the friction light up the track. It’s completely different from the other races.” (Jacs and Perl Jacalan, our companions during that dinner, told Jenson that they’ll be in Singapore for the race. VIP passes? I joked Perl.)

More on F1: Two days ago, guess who won the Belgian Grand Prix? I heard the news from a good friend; the first message I read when I opened my phone yesterday.

“Jenson just won the Belgian Grand Prix, Bai. He has never won there before. Must be the Cebu Ironman training. Hehe.” Ha ha. Maybe! That message came from Vincent Ong of Globe Telecom who also joined us in that get-together with Jenson and his team, including his girlfriend Jessica Michibata. True. Jenson’s hard-charged triathlon racing–while everybody else was in the beach vacationing–might have helped him. (Will write a full story on this very humble superstar soon.)

MALAYSIA. As you read this today, Jasmin and I are flying to Kuching, Malaysia to accompany our 13-year-old daughter Jana for her first international tennis competition.
Jana will join the 8th Sarawak Asian Under-14 Tennis Championships, competing with others from Malaysia, Indonesia, China, Hong Kong, Uzbekistan, Singapore and India. From the Philippines, three girls and three boys will represent us, including Cebu’s star, Iggy Pantino.
After the Kuching/Sarawak leg, we fly to Kota Kinabalu for the 3rd Sabah Asian U14 Championships, to be held at an 11-court facility at the Likas Sports Complex.
The past three months, Jana has been practicing hard for Malaysia. We got a scare two weeks ago when, midway through a practice session, she limped. We cut short her training after she complained of knee pain. We rested for a few days. Then, she joined her teammates from Bright Academy (Shyne Villareal, Anday Alferez and Stephanie Kim) as they won the Girls high school title of the Milo Little Olympics. After, she practiced again.. but the pain persisted. We visited Dr. Tony San Juan who attributed Jana’s growth spurt (she’s now 5’4 ½”) and heavy, almost-daily practices on hard-courts for the slight knee injury. More on Malaysia tennis soon…

Anton, Choming and friends in Singapore’s F1

Charles Osmeña, Jude Flores, Jeffrey Uraya, Anton Villacin and Choming Marques departed the country last Wednesday. They arrived home six days later. The all-boys excursion? The Singapore Grand Prix.

“This was my third Singapore F1 race,” said Anton Villacin, a Formula One diehard and member of the BMW club, BimmerCebu. “The nice thing about this race, aside from its being near and Cebu Pacific offers affordable rates, is that it’s a street circuit and a night race—the only one in the calendar.”

For Choming Marques, it was his second F1 visit to the Lion City. “This year, we came back to catch a glimpse of Michael Schumacher,” said Choming. “During practice, the commentator said on the loudspeaker: ‘Michael Schumacher is the Best Rookie in this race!’ We laughed.” Schumacher’s attendance—his first in Singapore—made the race bigger. “Bigger attendance, bigger production in and outside the race track,” said Anton.

“The guy we went to see this year,” said Anton of M. Schumacher

The race-day experience? “It was phenomenal. We went to the track early at 4 p.m. and, to our surprise, the track was packed! (Last year, we went at 5 and were still able to find a spot.) This year we had to fight through the thick crowd to reach the railings,” said Anton. “We got Walkabout tickets which means we don’t have designated grandstand seats but we can stand by the rails. We had to endure the pain of standing from 4 to 10 p.m. but it paid of as we saw Lewis Hamilton, Felipe Massa and Vitantonio Liuzzi pass right in front of us.

“Since we were just meters from the track, I could feel my chest vibrate as the cars passed… their engines were loud. I could hardly hear myself after the race! After the race we walked around the track for picture-taking; I was able to pick up some carbon fiber debris from Kamui Kobayashi’s BMW Sauber!”

“Walkabout tickets are preferred by hardcore fans or photographers because you’re closer (only five feet from the fence). In the race itself, Alonso started in pole position followed by Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton. This had to be one of the most exciting races… the safety car coming out many times and Team Lotus’ car catching fire. Webber and Hamilton also collided which took Hamilton out of the race,” said Choming.

“That’s when we saw Hamilton pissed; he threw his steering wheel like a boomerang! As the race went on we were still on our feet leaning on the fence…  our patience paid off when Hamilton walked right in front of us! We got pictures. He didn’t seem happy at all. To think I also got a picture of Massa the day before when his car spun out during qualifying! In the end, Alonso won and everyone did victory laps which was slow, so we got to see the drivers wave to the crowd.”

The race wasn’t all about cars. It was also about the pre- and post-race parties. “There were support races (Formula BMW Asia, Porsche Cup),” said Anton. “We checked out Missy Elliot, Mariah Carey, dropped by the Freestyle Trial Bikes and stayed throughout DJ Tiga!” said Choming. “There was so much going on all afternoon till early morning, even as you walk around the different zones buying food, drinks or more shirts (he-he). You’ll also be enjoying the night skyline of Singapore. You have to remember the track is in the city; we were amazed with the Sands Hotel and its Sky deck.”

Anton added: “If you’re a fan, it would be nice to watch the race live at least once. The experience got me hooked. The energy on trackside is phenomenal. It’s about the total experience. You get to see things you don’t on TV: food stalls, music stages, F1 merchandise stalls, vintage cars display, race simulators where you can try for free, sponsors’ booths, video walls and giant TV screens, and you see F1 fanatics complete with costumes of their teams.”

“As a bonus, if you’re lucky, you get to see celebrities,” said Anton. “I almost had a chance to shake hands with one of the most ‘inspiring’ figures, Sir Richard Branson (cars & girls baby!), but when I bumped into him in Clark Quay, I froze…”

Would you highly recommend the experience to other Cebuanos? I asked.

“Definitely!” Choming replied. “I heard from other people that Singapore comes alive during race weekend, more events, more people and more money to spend if your not to careful, It may seem very expensive to experience an event like this but if you plan ahead you can get great deals on the flights, hotels and if you know the Right people Great Food!! thank you DJ B for pointing us to the very best Hainanese Chicken!!”

Answered Anton: “I would highly recommend the experience to cebuano F1 fans at least once. For us, this is the cheapest and most convenient F1 race in the calendar. Take advantage of early booking rates from airlines and hotels. And since it is a street race held in the middle of the city, you get to watch the race and shop at the same time. You can even bring your family along and they can go shopping at the huge malls surrounding the track while you and your buddies watch the race. It would also help if you know someone from there to act as your tour guide to the best shops and authentic foods around the city. Thanks to DJ B (Zouk resident DJ) for bringing us to the authentic hainanese chicken rice restaurant, the best I have tasted ever!”

He’s back on track!

Can you believe Schumi is back? Retired since 2006, later this month he’ll be in Valencia, Spain to drive a familiar color: Red. The winner of seven F1 titles, Michael Shumacher, replaces the recuperating Felipe Massa.

”Though it is true that the Formula One chapter has long been closed for me, it is also true that for team loyalty reasons I cannot ignore that unfortunate situation,” said Schumacher. ”But as the competitor I am, I also very much look forward to facing this challenge.”

I’ll make a testimonial: While I followed F1 when the German drove for Ferrari, after he retired, I braked. And stopped. Same scenario for me with Michael Jordan. Same when Lance Armstrong left.

Now, I’m back. The same, I bet, is true for millions on non-fanatics worldwide: Schumi’s return will reenergize the controversy-laden F1.

Be Honest, even if others are not, will not, cannot

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Lewis Hamilton, the reigning Formula One world champion, does not subscribe to the creed of the Catholic charismatic group that I belong to.

I’m a member of the BCBP. Spelled in full, it’s the Brotherhood of Christian Businessmen and Professionals. Founded by a group of Makati businessmen in 1980 (we will be 29 years old this month), the main advocacy of the BCBP can be summed up in two elementary—yet difficult to follow—words: Be Honest. Continue reading Be Honest, even if others are not, will not, cannot

What a Grand Prix Finale: Lewis slips, Alonso brakes, Kimi wins

My uncle Jefren Pages cheered for Kimi Raikkonen. Same with my first cousin Giandi. His brother Ezra—calling long-distance from Dubai, where he flies for Emirates—also rooted for Ferrari.Ezra’s eldest brother Anton, a former Michael Schumacher fan and the columnist of the popular “Flat Out” column, didn’t want Team Red to win this year: Anton wished Fernando Alonso victory.

Me? I voted for Lewis Hamilton. Only 22 years old and in his first Formula One season, I wished the Briton would land in the Guinness World Records by winning the Brazilian GP—and becoming history’s first-ever rookie to win the coveted title, “World Drivers’ Champion.”

At my uncle Jefren’s house in Paradise Village, we surrounded a large-screen TV set. The clock? It read “12:00.” Not 12 noon—but 12 midnight!

Felipe Massa sat on the No.1 spot at the starting grid. Right beside him was Lewis Hamilton. Spots three and four: Raikkonen and Alonso. With these names upfront, this we knew: This will be historic.

And historic it was. Right at the opening sprint, Massa swerved left to block Hamilton, squeezing the rookie. Raikkonen took second place, followed by Alonso. And Hamilton? While he started at No. 2, within a few clock ticks, he skidded, slipped, braked, drove backwards… Continue reading What a Grand Prix Finale: Lewis slips, Alonso brakes, Kimi wins

One race, One champion

Will this be the picture on Sunday?

ANTON PAGES is my first cousin. Among all the people I know who adores Formula One racing, he’s first. Years back, when the F1 organizers held their inaugural race in Malaysia, guess who was first in line to purchase tickets, book an airline, and sprint to the Sepang International Circuit?

Anton Pages. He used to write a weekly sports column (“Flat Out”) for The Freeman. Now, he writes for the ABS-CBN website (www.abs-cbnnews.com) alongside Quinito Henson. And so, with the season about to conclude this October 21 (Sunday), I asked Anton to share his thoughts on F1. Here’s Anton…

“Where do we start! At this point in time, mention Formula One racing in Cebu and you’ll likely get some glances at the ceiling or blank shrugs—clear signs that there aren’t as many watching this season as much as the Schumacher-Hakkinen era.

“The funniest thing is this: the whole 2007 season that started way back in March could be erased from history right now – all that matters for the 2007 championship is going to explode this Sunday for the final race of the season at Interlagos, Brazil. Continue reading One race, One champion