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GP Week : Issue 228
OPINION mAt CoCh Editor Growing up in Adelaide many of my early memories relate to the Australian Grand Prix. I remember my mother pulling me out of school and taking me to a local garage, where Johnny herbert and his Lotus teammate Mika hakkinen were pumping petrol. There's a photo of Martin Brundle using my head to sign an an autograph with me giving the thumbs while in later years I'd camp outside driver's hotels to get a signature. I wasn't alone. As a city, Adelaide would come to a standstill for the grand prix. Street parties dominated the east end of the city and every year as a family we'd go to the race and then wander through the streets, checking out the pop-up model shops where enterprising retailers had bumped up their prices ever so slightly. There were food stalls, plenty of beer and wine to be had with bands playing on balconies overlooking the street. I may be biased but nobody does a party quite like Adelaide. That was part of its charm. It was the last race of the season and the championship was often already decided so it afforded those in pit lane a chance to let their hair down. Stories abound of the sorts of antics the teams used to get up to, from taking over restaurants to selling team uniforms out of their hotel rooms. It was not uncommon to see a famous face wandering the streets in the days before and after the race - Ayrton Senna would often head up Flagstaff Hill to fly model aircraft. In terms of atmosphere, nothing in the world matches what Adelaide had, but Singapore goes close. The Marina Bay circuit is in the heart of the city, which has a party atmosphere to it much like my home town once did. There are rock concerts supporting the race and the night race nature of it means people can experience the city during the day and head to the circuit in the late afternoon. In terms of sightseeing and ease of access for tourists it's second to none. That's what makes the event truly unique. From a spectators perspective it's just another street circuit and therefore offers only limited chances to see the cars. But because it's a street circuit you can get far closer, making the experience far more visceral. It's dramatic and exciting and backed up by a range of other activities that keep the crowd more than entertained. And that comes across on television, as I discovered this year. For the first time in five years I wasn't in Singapore, though countless Australian's were. It's only a short flight from our shores, particularly from Daniel Ricciardo's home town of Perth on the west coast. But even though I wasn't there the passion and enthusiasm for the even radiates through the television. The commentators speak enthusiastically of the event, quietly glossing over the body clock confusion everyone in the F1 fraternity suffers from. For mine, Singapore has been successful because it's been able to engage not only fans but the F1 fraternity itself. Having been to countless other circuits and events around the world, in Formula One and other series, there are few that can boast that feat. The V8 Supercar event at Bathurst is one, so is the Clipsal 500 which almost recaptures the atmosphere the grand prix once had in Adelaide, but there are precious few Formula One events that do it. Singapore absolutely does. For a city with a population of over five million people that's quite an achievement. The race is welcomed and celebrated, it throws a mammoth weekend-long part to celebrate. There are other events in smaller cities where the race goes almost unnoticed, or is an unpopular encroachment on their day-to-day lives. That's what makes Singapore so special and perhaps that's why I'm such a fan, becuse it takes me back to my youth. 16 GPWEEK.com // 16 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: OPINION there's no place like home