Paddock Diary: Singapore Grand Prix day two

2019 Singapore Grand Prix

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“A living legend”: Jackie Stewart left an impression on one of his successors in the sport in the Singapore Grand Prix paddock on Friday.


Awaken after disrupted sleep – having landed yesterday at 3:30pm (9:30am CET body clock) and then worked through to midnight (6pm), I stay awake until 6am (midnight) catching up on various news stories before taking a brisk walk through a still buzzing downtown Singapore to stretch my legs.


Depart hotel by cab for Conrad Hotel, where I’m invited to ‘lunch’ by RoKIT, Williams and associate sponsor Financial Times. It’s a networking opportunity, and I’m introduced to Le Ngoc Chi, CEO of the Vietnam Grand Prix, the major new addition to the 2020 F1 calendar, on her first public visit to an F1 race.

I’m sat at the table with Andrew Denford, founder of F1 in Schools, and his wife Eleanor, who bring me up to speed on this very worthwhile initiative. The 2019 finals will be held in Abu Dhabi on the eve of the race. Lunch is prawn starter, followed by wagyu beef on mash, but I regrettably have to skip dessert (nougatine chocolate bar) as I’m called to a meeting in the paddock.


I attend a presentation by Formula 1 on market research methodology and how it informs decisions on the direction of the sport. We’ll be bringing you the full lowdown shortly so won’t be pre-empt the data, but suffice to say it was a fascinating hour spent digesting info imparted by F1 Technical Director Pat Symonds and Matt Roberts, F1’s Research and Analytics Director.


It’s always a thrill to watch F1 cars wrestling with the confines and bumps of a street circuit. After first practice I sit down with Masashi Yamamato, Honda’s F1 managing director for brand and communications. Again, we’ll bring you the contents of our the half-hour chat, but it’s clear Honda is pinning its hopes on a long-term relationship with Max Verstappen.

Yamamoto-san tells me that Japanese Grand Prix tickets are available in a choice of 70 backgrounds, enabling fans to order team- or driver-themed passes drawing on historic and current grids. Inevitably Ayrton Senna tops the popularity list, but Verstappen and Kimi Raikkonen are right up there too.

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Robert Kubica, Williams, Singapore, 2019As second practice ends I hit the interview trail. It’s a pleasantly warm evening, and, with most sessions held outside team garages, there are few better settings on the trail for our tasks.

It’s easy to forget how innovative this event was when it first appeared on the calendar just over a decade ago. The plans for a night race surprised the paddock; we heard how 15,000 lamps would illuminate the circuit and wondered if drivers would be blinded by rain. That first event was, of course, tainted by ‘Crashgate’, but since then the race has gone from strength to strength.

Much of this is due to the promoters’ willingness to learn: in early 2008 a few of us were invited to spend the pre-Malaysian GP period in the city, and were grilled on media requirements over and above the FIA/F1’s handbook. Our list was simple: good quality food/drink on site; free, high-speed free internet; and ease of access combined with affordable, comfortable accommodation.

All three were and have been consistently delivered, and the race remains a favourite amongst the media. Now an F1 calendar without its Asian night race is unthinkable, and only Singapore makes it work.

Our basic requirements seem blindingly obvious, but you’d be surprised how few promoters delivered back then. The Korean Grand Prix accommodation consisted of gaudy rooms more usually rented out by the hour, while Melbourne’s hotel prices remain a world-class rip-off, as do Abu Dhabi’s. Catalunya still demands a daily fee for internet access.


While awaiting the start of Kevin Magnussen’s session I discuss married life with the newlywed, who exchanged rings with Louise during the summer break.

Jackie Stewart, unashamedly one of my all-time favourite drivers, joins us. We discuss the dangers of his era and (lack of) safety during his heyday.

Magnussen, whose father Jan raced for Jackie in F1 and F3, widens his eyes at some of the thrice-champion’s stories. “An absolute legend,” he remarks after Stewart moves on.


Mario Isola’s Pirelli debrief is the final session of the day. I leave directly from there for the hotel. I’m fortunate: as I hit the street a taxi with green sign cruises by, so I’m dropped at my hotel shortly before 1am.

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2019 Singapore Grand Prix

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7 comments on “Paddock Diary: Singapore Grand Prix day two”

  1. Wagyu beef on mash could be served every day in my opinion . A delicate delight

  2. Excellent article! Huge chuckle at the rooms by the hour bit!
    Jackie Stewart. Hmmm…? The very same fellow that was the prime Lewis Hamilton BASHER back when?
    Yes the very same opinionated person. Who took swipe after swipe, relentlessly at LH at every opportunity.
    He was a true F1 leend in his prime.
    But his wretched hounding of LH destroyed any shred of respect for him.
    His obnoxious, snivelling, creepy crawling now; towards LH, since LH passed his WDC’s, is 2 faced to put it politely!

    1. Here, here! Couldnt have summed it better myself. I wish the old Gnome would just take a few days off from being…well…Jackie Stewart.

    2. I still have a lot of respect for him, what he does and says @wildbiker, as long as it’s not mixed in with much to do with Hamilton, at least, because I do agree, in those cases I usually find it better to tune him out, because it’s very rarely interesting. But, his views on safety, and his efforts for dementia for example, remain outstanding.

  3. In Jackie Stewart’s day there was I think, only a 20% chance of surviving an F1 career alive.
    Watch “F1 the killer years” again.

    He is also a very good shot with a 12 bore.

    1. I think 20% is a bit strong. But, picking the 1965 British GP as a sample, 9/24 drivers died in a racing car of some sort. That is quite a horrible number.

    2. And has impeccable taste when it comes to Sun Glasses….

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