• Karun Chandhok's ESPNF1 column

Up all night

Karun Chandhok September 29, 2011
Singapore is one of Formula One's most eye-ctaching venues © Getty Images
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The Singapore Grand Prix was yet another demonstration of Seb Vettel and Red Bull's dominance of F1 2011, but also of how behind him there's plenty of action and stories that make the race weekends exciting.

The race in Singapore is fast becoming a favourite for the teams and drivers along with Melbourne, Montreal, Monaco and Monza. It's a fantastic example of how a Formula 1 race can benefit a country as a whole. I've attended every race in Singapore that has run and have to say that there is absolutely no reduction in the number of people that come to the race every year.

The race organisers have got the business model spot on. Crucially they have managed to get the government on board and justify the race as a tourism expense. They chose to run at night which means that it's held at a time that is convenient for the Western World to watch on TV and also benefits the locals who can spend their entire days at home with their families and then head out for some entertainment in the evening, as you would if going to a movie or concert.

Having the race on the streets, going past all of the beautiful architecture, makes a great advertisement for the city and there is no doubt about it, when watching on television it truly makes the best spectacle on the planet. I know of so many people around the world who watched the race on TV and said to themselves "if we save up money to go to a race next year, Singapore will be high up on our list of choices."

It's interesting to note just what an F1 race can do for the profile of the country. Certainly if you take the Middle-East, the races have done wonders for their countries in terms of global awareness and profile. Realistically, I don't know how many people thought of Abu Dhabi as a place to visit before watching the race on TV. I'm not talking about people from the sub-continent who visit the Middle East anyway, but more the tourists from Europe and North America who would be bringing in their foreign currency to the local economy.

The race weekend is a very bizarre one for the teams and drivers to work at. Because of the time schedule of the night race, we essentially stay on European time which means going to bed at 4am or 5am and then waking up at 2pm before going to the track around 4pm.

It sounds ridiculous and it kind of is. F1 being F1, teams work to the finest detail to ensure that everyone is comfortable and everything is considered. Our logistics people go out early to ensure that the hotels have thick enough curtains for the light not to come through and wake everyone up in the mornings. The catering teams serve us our meals as if we were in Europe as well so at 2pm we get breakfast with eggs, toast, cereal, etc., at 8pm we get lunch and then at 2am we get dinner!

Karun Chandhok on a late-night cycle ride © Sutton Images
The former F1 race winner John Watson was down for the race and staying in my hotel. I saw him in the restaurant at 4am and he was just perplexed because around us were Paul di Resta, Heikki Kovaleinnen, Timo Glock and plenty of team personnel. 'Wattie' came from an era before night races and before the attention to detail in terms of driver care and fitness that we have today. We had a fantastic chat on why we all felt it was important to work on these strange timings and sleep patterns so that the personnel are all on top form come the middle of the night. He of course thought everyone should be in bed!

The Singapore race has also turned into a favourite for drivers entirely because of this unique schedule. For me, the strangest thing was to take my cycle out at 1am and go cycling under lights till 3am. It's such a weird and eerie, but at the same time special, experience to be out training hard while around you the rest of the city is asleep! The organisers fortunately kept the lights on at the track so there were plenty of others running or cycling and making use of this unique opportunity.

As for the race itself, there was so much action behind Seb that it was often easy to forget he was in the race! A street race always throws up a few incidents and safety cars and this year was no different - at least it was a less controversial safety car than the one in 2008! Apart from Seb and Jenson Button, I thought Paul di Resta was the other star of the show. He drove a great race, managing the tyres well and running at a good pace on the primes when others around him weren't able to get them working quite as well. The Renault's seemed like they were struggling particularly on the slow speed twists and turns in Singapore, while Ferrari will be left wondering how they combat the car's lack of competitiveness on slower tracks compared to Red Bull and McLaren as the design process of their 2012 is going on at the moment. The Scuderia must come out of the blocks stronger from round one next year if they want to fight for the world championship.

On to the Far East double-header next in Japan and Korea where we should see the youngest double world champion crowned. I'm sure the flamboyant energy drinks company have a hell of a party planned!