Singapore big winner in F1 night race


Posted at Sep 29 2008 12:52 PM | Updated as of Sep 29 2008 08:52 PM

SINGAPORE - Fernando Alonso was crowned Formula One's prince of darkness on Sunday, after streaking to the checkered flag at the sport's first night-time grand prix in Singapore.

The Spaniard's triumph at Formula One's 800th race was heralded by customary champagne-fueled celebrations, the podium jubilation adhering to time-honored motor racing etiquette.

But while Renault's twice former world champion will be forever noted as the Singapore GP's first winner, the F1 honor roll will not so easily record the biggest winner of the weekend -- the South-East Asian city-state whose staging of a spectacular and innovative race has left the motor racing world agog with admiration.

A jewel in the Formula One crown is how the sport's supremo Bernie Ecclestone described the Singapore race, adding that floodlit events were the future for the sport.

It helped that Sunday night's race was an action-packed roller-coaster of thrills, drama and daredevil driving.

"In this part of the world, for sure, night races will take off," the billionaire who owns the sport's commercial rights said on Sunday. Ecclestone plans to turn the Japanese GP into a night race next.

Singaporean extravaganza

McLaren boss Ron Dennis raved about the Singaporean extravaganza.

"It is not just a new experience," he said, "It is a real big step in the history of grand prix racing because it has been done so well.

"Everything has been proven now and we can take this model and apply it to anywhere in the world - either to bring to Europe the race at a time when people watch it, or even within Europe to make it more spectacular."

Williams team boss, the eponymous Frank Williams, echoed Ecclestone's thoughts.

"It has a good chance of challenging Monaco for being the jewel in the crown of Formula One," he told Autosport magazine's website.

From the floodlit 5.067 kilometer track, strewn across Singapore's downtown like a luminous ribbon, to the state-of-the-art facilities and clockwork organization, the entire staging of the grand prix has been an exercise in how to get it right.

Organizers had faced a headache of eye-watering proportions in their ambitions to step into the unknown and host the extravaganza under the stars.

For the lighting alone, 1,600 lantern-like projectors were rigged up, requiring more than 100,000 meters of cabling and 240 steel pylons to illuminate the track.

Festival atmosphere

The result was some of the most spectacular images of any sporting event. Pictures of gleaming Ferraris speeding through a hi-tech cityscape vied with images of cars streaking past the world's largest observation wheel, the Singapore Flyer -- pictures which filled the media and fueled the appetite for motor sport.

More than 300,000 people poured through the gates over three days, a sell-out, and created a festival atmosphere.

Organizers set up "hawker stalls" offering visitors a taste of authentic Singaporean food while magicians, singers and jugglers entertained the masses.

"It costs a lot of money, the lights, the circuit and the organization. But it is a great investment for the city. And, of course, it is fantastic for F1. It is, in the best sense of the word, a highlight," Mercedes motorsport vice-president Norbert Haug said.

Even the drivers, a breed of detail-obsessed, nit-picking perfectionists, gave it the thumbs up.

"The track and the facilities here have been phenomenal," championship leader Lewis Hamilton said after finishing third.

"The organizers should be very proud of the job they have done."