Sport & Culture

Singapore to Host Grand Prix Through 2017

“We have added a new dimension to the sport with a unique night race…”

The fifth Singapore Grand Prix, which wrapped up Sunday, was an action-packed and incident-filled eventually won by Sebastian Vettel

It is one of the most spectacular races in the season  – a street event in one of the world’s most vibrant cities – at night. 

It is the only night race of the calendar and it has already become iconic and the drivers, tourists, international media and corporate sponsors love it.

All these groups received good news the day before the checkered flag came down when an agreement was signed by Singapore and the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile or FIA, the body that runs the sport, to extend the race for another five years.

Mr S Iswaran, Singapore’s Second Minister for Trade and Industry talked of the benefits to the city-state that the race brings.

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"From an economic perspective, the F1 Singapore Grand Prix has attracted more than 150,000 international visitors over the last four years, and about S$140 – $150 million (approximately $115 million to $123 million US dollars) in incremental tourism receipts each year. For the extended term, we expect benefits to remain at least at this level."

The news may not be greeted with enthusiasm by all the locals, however, and there are signs that the excitement of the race, which started in 2008, is wearing off.

The fact that it is a street circuit does cause some major inconvenience for local traffic, not just for the three days of the Grand Prix itself but for almost a week ahead of time.

The costs involved are high. Although it brings in many visitors, the race costs about $123 million USD with the government pitching in for 60% of that.

Furthermore, the number of tourists that came from the race this year dropped 3% from those that came in 2011. This downward trend may continue into the future as the novelty of the race continues to diminish.

The road closures sometimes affect local businesses and cause all kinds of inconvenience for drivers.

For Singapore however, it is not just about dollars and cents, it is about selling the city to the world.

"The Singapore government in particular has taken a very deliberate study of the costs and benefits of continuing with this race from a national perspective. Our view is that F1 has been good for Singapore," Iswaran said.

He continued, "It has helped to strengthen Singapore's standing as a global city with a vibrant lifestyle.”

"Equally we believe Singapore has been good for F1. We have added a new dimension to the sport with a unique night race against the backdrop of our distinctive skyline."

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Marketing and promoting a city, region or country on the global stage is an attraction for some in Asia. 

While the sport has become more popular in the region in recent years, it has not caught on as quickly as some may have hoped.

There have been plenty of empty seats at races in China, India and South Korea. The Koreans, soon to host a third race, have been left wondering whether it is all worth it and there is major disquiet among taxpayers in the local region at how much they have had to pay for the race.

Singapore will be doing so for another five years but there is no knowing what the feeling will be like in 2017 when the new contract comes to an end.