Sunday, September 28, 2008

Singapore Lights Way to F1 Future

Formula One's first night race was a huge success and it seems inevitable that more events will follow Singapore's lead in the future.

F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone - whose idea it was to follow a lead taken by other motorsport categories - has already hinted he would like the Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka next year to be held under lights.

And in the Singapore paddock there were rumours that the organisers of the Abu Dhabi race, which is to make its debut as the season finale next year, had taken note of the impact made by this event and would also run their race at night.

Ecclestone would doubtless endorse that idea. Running Abu Dhabi at night would ensure the race was televised during the all-important Sunday night prime time in Europe.

For anyone wondering why, if the European audience is so crucial to F1, the races are not simply held in that part of the world in the first place, the answer - as always in F1 - lies with money.

New, exotic locations increase interest in F1 by enhancing its image. That, combined with more races at a time which appeals to the sport's core audience, means bigger audiences, and therefore happier television companies who will keep paying to show the sport.

Bigger audiences mean more advertising revenue, for those TV companies who collect it - which is nearly all of them - as well as for Ecclestone.

And he wins in another way, too. Countries like Singapore are prepared to pay far more to host a Grand Prix than most European races can afford, even if they are funded by government.

For these new venues, an F1 event means an opportunity to showcase themselves to the world in the most flattering light - and that is effectively priceless.

It was an opportunity Singapore grabbed with both hands at the weekend.

The track was interesting, the event ran almost without a hitch, the cars looked even more spectacular than usual under the floodlights, and Singapore's evocative location and history meant it came already loaded up with a glamour that could soon rival that of Monaco.

That glamour works both ways - Singapore's rubs off on F1 just as the sport's rubs off on its host.

"It has a good chance of challenging Monaco for being the jewel in the crown of Formula One," team owner Frank Williams said.

"They have great weather, a very good track, and the grandstands packed. There is a lot of enthusiasm out there."

Packed grandstands are not something F1 has been used to seeing in the new venues it has adopted around the world in recent years.

Places like Malaysia and Bahrain might have the money to buy the sport, but they have not been able to buy an interest among their populations.

Singapore, though, was different - partly because the race was held on a track through the middle of the city, but also because its inhabitants have a fair bit more disposable income than the average resident of Kuala Lumpur or Manama.

The race's success is likely to have ramifications that go further than simply increasing the number of Asian night races.

"It is not just a new experience, it is a real big step in the history of Grand Prix racing," said McLaren team boss Ron Dennis.

"When you see the shots of the city and the way they have brought the whole atmosphere of Singapore into the event, it is just a phenomenal spectacle.

"We can take this model and apply it to anywhere in the world - either to bring Europe the race at a time when people watch it, or even within Europe to make it more spectacular./div>

... excerpts from BBC Sport

1 comment:

marzuki said...

Caught the fever too..? Feels nice when people say nice things abt sg, doesnt it?