Why should you go?
The Singapore Grand Prix has quickly established itself one of the most popular Grand Prix venues. Premiering the first Formula 1 night race, set against the glimmering city skyline and supporting concerts by famous artists, the Singapore GP has been a hit from the start. Only started in 2008, the race is now considered one of the ‘jewels in the crown’ of the Formula 1 circuit next to classics such as Monaco and Monza.
As a big Formula 1 fan, I was lucky to visit the race in 2016. With a great downtown location, easy access, and a whole city embracing the race it was one of the best of the Grand Prix’s I visited! And seeing Kylie Minogue, KC and the Sunshine band, Queen and Imagine Dragons perform was of course a great bonus!
Join me as we visit the Singapore GP, with this little guide to help you have the best experience! (and maybe even get in the pits!)
My visit to the Singapore GP was somewhat unplanned. I was transferring through Singapore on my way from a visit to Vietnam back to my current home in Bali, Indonesia. I was planned to pass through a week before the GP and had decided ‘nah too expensive’. Of course as I was packing my bags in Ho Chi Minh City and getting ready to catch my flight to Singapore, my impulses got the best of me! A quick login on my hostels wifi and my onward flight to Bali was quickly pushed a week back…
Arriving in Singapore a week before the race, there were still quite a few tickets available through the official ticket website. However, only 3-day packages (Friday practice, Saturday qualification and Sunday race) were available. I was really only looking for race-day so want to look to buy from a private seller. A little bit of research showed me that most tickets were traded through Carousell and Craigslist. There was ample supply of tickets on offer in the days leading up to the race, with prices ranging from “some desperate sucker will buy this” to “I need to dump these tickets quick and recover some cash”. A Sunday ticket at a discounted rate was easily found, and the Friday tickets were thrown in at such a price that I couldn’t refuse…
The best places to watch
Ah! A topic with many heated internet discussions. And of course depending on the budget you want to spend! I was hoping for an online gem such as that Paddock Club ticket being sold off at budget prices by some unaware corporate type but alas…
Disregarding all the main straight grandstands in Zone 1 as they are just a bit pricier… You’re left with the Padang, Stamford, Connaught and Esplanade purpose build temporary stands. The good thing is that these are quite steep stands so offer a more unobstructed view. Also they have more legroom, and are close to the track.
In the end I picked the cheapest grandstand, the bay grandstand. It has a bit of a bad name as it the biggest grandstand, and is quite a shallow angle so you can end up far from the track with an obstructed view. And legroom is more limited. As a tall lanky Dutchman it was certainly not the roomiest grandstand I’ve ever been in, but certainly doable (and apologies for any short Singaporeans sitting behind me!). What I liked about the Bay grandstand is that it overlooks Marina Bay. You are treated to a great background of the iconic Marina Bay Sands hotel and the rest of the Singapore skyline as the day slowly goes into night. That certainly adds to the great atmosphere of this unique race!
Do check with the Bay grandstand tickets which color, row and letter your seat is. Worst case you end up way back and far away from the track.
Alternatively if you are not interested in a grandstand you can get a ‘walkabout’ general access ticket. This is either a Premier (Zone 1,2,3 and 4) or Zone 4 ticket. Within the general access areas there are a few viewing platforms, so if you are in early you might get a decent spot to view the action. I’ve been told there are a view good viewing platforms in Zone 1 which give you a good view of the pit straight and final and first turns (Turn 22, and 2/3). I saw Premier tickets going for decent prices on Carousell, but unfortunately just missed out…
If you get the Zone 4 Walkabout (probably the cheapest ticket you can find) I have a little tip for you. Go to the Esplanade Theaters in Zone 4, and take the elevator to the top floor. Here you will find a rooftop viewing deck with free access. You’ll be a bit higher up, but you’ll have a great overview.
A thing to be aware of is that ‘higher’ zones have access to ‘lower’ zone. So if you have a grandstand or Walkabout ticket for Zone 1, you can access Zone 2, 3 and 4. The reverse however is not possible. So if there is an artist peforming in the Zone 1 stage you want to see, you’ll need to have a ticket with access to that!
Getting to the circuit
The great thing about a downtown race is that access is very easy using public transport. Especially in Singapore, with the clean and punctual MRT subway system. I wouldn’t consider any other option to get to the track. Access to the track is best through Esplanade, Promenade, City Hall, Raffles Place, Bayfront or Nicoll Highway stations. Just check which gate give access to your zone, and which station is best for that. Most gates are only a few minutes walk from a MRT station, and there are signs to help you easily find your way to the gate.
The MRT runs extended hours during the GP weekend, check the signs posted at the stations and online information.
Transport is all very well organized, I think it took me 25 minutes to get from the main Padang stage to my hostel in Little India.
Being in Singapore with it’s amazing food culture this is another highlight of this GP! Your usually GP food is some soggy small hamburger sold for 25 EUR or other rip-off price… From the Bay grandstand it was only a few minutes to get to the Esplanade theaters, which is ‘locked’ in Zone 4 over the GP weekend. You have a little mall there with some western style restaurants and Starbucks/Dunkin’ Donuts etc. But the highlight is the Gluttons Bay hawker (food stalls) center there. Amazing Asian food at budget prices! The mall restaurants have their regular non-GP prices, and the hawkers do not increase their prices much. Being in Singapore at a F1 GP was not where I expected to get good and and cheap food. But it turned out to be the best and cheapest meal I ever had at a sporting event!
Some insider tips
From my visit in 2016 there are a few great tips I want to share with you!
Free pitwalk (if you’re lucky!)
On the Thursday night there is a pitwalk open for the public. Tickets for these are free and you can get them by an online raffle a few months before the event. As my visit was a last minute unplanned one, I missed out on this. I saw a few for sale on Carousell but at prices I didn’t want to pay for essential free tickets. So I decided to head out to the entrance gate for this (Gate 1, 5 minutes walk from Nicoll Highway MRT station) and chance it. After 10 minutes there I saw a couple walking out, and the man getting a taxi for his female companion. I asked if I could have her access (a colored armband) and I was in! The security/check seemed very relaxed, maybe with a good story you actually might be able to convince them to give you an access. The pitwalk was a great experience, a great look in the garages and trackside ‘prat perches’. By the time we got to the Red Bull Racing garage, they rolled Max Verstappen’s car out for pit stop practices. All in all a great experience and certainly worth a shot!
Watch for free!
In Singapore, and you want to see a bit of the Grand Prix but don’t want to spend any money on a ticket? No worries, you can get a pretty good viewing spot for free! Head over to the Marina Square Mall, and find the outdoor terrace/walkway. This elevated walkway gives you a good view of the approach, braking and turn-in for turn 16. You probably need to be early to get a good spot, but for that price you can’t complain!
One level above this public terrace there are some restaurants with an outside sitting area. I watched the Saturday qualifying there, sitting on comfy barstool overlooking the track. I paid a small fee (20 SGD) and of course the beers weren’t cheap (it is Singapore!) but it was great chill place to watch the action.
Hear a F1 insider
Probably my favorite Formula 1 journalist, Joe Saward, holds an ‘Evening with Joe’ in Singapore. A great chance to hear some insider stories, and ask questions, from one of the most experienced and knowledgeable journalists in F1. You get some food and drinks too, and to be honest taking that in account it’s a pretty good value evening!
Meet a driver
During the GP build-up and weekend, there are quite a few events around town. A great chance to get into the race atmosphere, and maybe meet some of the drivers. The Marina bay Sands and Ion Orchard malls seem to be good locations for these. I just managed to get a glimpse of championship leader Nico Rosberg in Ion Orchard, surrounded by many very enthusiastic Singaporean teenage girls (Nico seemed the most popular driver, certainly with this demographic!) armed with selfie sticks.
Other things to do
Besides watching the action on track, there is enough to keep you entertained in Singapore
There are GP parties in all the happening bars and clubs. As I’m too old for that 😉 you can find better advice by checking out Time Out Singapore for what’s going on. Some of the best yearly returning parties are at the Amber Lounge, Podium Lounge, Ce La Vi, 1 Altitude. Bring your Platinum Credit Card!
But with the many visitors in town, the bars in Clarke Quay, Boat Quay and Club Street will be lively too over the weekend! Go to Clarke and Boat Quay if you are looking for more of a club vibe, whereas Club street is more a cocktail bar atmosphere.
Singapore life revolves largely about eating. Spend you last dollar in some of the most trendiest restaurants, or head to Little India, Chinatown or one of the many hawker centers for some amazing food at affordable rates. There is even a hawker with a Michelin star!
Singapore is certainly not the cheapest, or most charismatic place to visit in SE-Asia. However during my week there the place started to grow on me, and I found some great things to do without breaking the bank. Another post on this will follow shortly!
Menno has had the travel bug ever since spending his childhood in the tropics. In 2013 he left his office career and is now diving and sailing the world.
He enjoys sharing the beautiful underwater world and exploring remote islands. He gets his kicks when he can help fellow travelers have an amazing life-changing experience.