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The Unofficial F1 World Tour 2010 - Part 8 // Singapore and Japan are next on the F1 schedule

Published by Alex J Snell

Welcome along, we are back with another double race update from the fabulous Alex Snell, who is following the F1 calendar and visiting every single Grand Prix in 2010. We're more than halfway through, now, and Alex has become a bit of a household name in the paddock, gaining insight that he could only have dreamed of at the start of the year. If you'd like to read more from Alex, visit his travel blog, or get up to the minute updates on his Twitter account. Now, over to Alex.

Race 15 - Singapore

Monday 19:36

You join me around 2 hours in to my flight across to Kuala Lumpur, and in about 10 hours I'll hopefully be landing, switching planes, then flying on to Singapore - my final destination. As the in-flight chat with my neighbour has tailed off I figured this would be the perfect opportunity to kick off the blog. You see the neighbour in question happens to be the right rear wheel guy for Lotus, and glancing around as I type this I'm literally surrounded by green and white shirts. Now given my F1 loyalties you might say that I'm somewhat behind enemy lines at the moment!

Tuesday 23:56

To start with we're now on Singapore time, just in case you were wondering where Tuesday went! The rest of my journey wasn't too bad as I continued to enjoy the company of the lotus guys, even including Mike Gascoyne on the final flight (there's no first class to hide in on the smaller planes!). And amusingly it wasn't until we all reached the baggage point at Singapore that one of them finally clocked the VR cap and wrist band - the expression on the chap's face was priceless!

A walkabout Singapore uncovers the leafy Raffles Courtyard
Credit: Alex J Snell

Wednesday 19:05

Today I donned my tourist cap and went exploring this fantastic city. I started off around Clarke Quay and trailed the rivers edge as it meanders it's way, stopping only briefly to have the bejeezus scared out of me by a street performer and his colossal yellow python (no that's not a metaphor!), which he insisted on thrusting into my face!

That aside I quickly fell for Singapore's wonderful blend of new and old architecture. Ranging from the stunning Raffles hotel to the neck breaking sky scrapers, and not forgetting the ornate temples in Chinatown. But the big plus of the day was getting to walk the track, which in all honesty I kind of stumbled upon unintentionally. What struck me though was just how much work was still left to do, these guys must work like crazy to get the track ready for Friday! Sauntering round to the Bay Area (which is to be my home for the weekend), the view was every bit as impressive as I'd hoped - I can't wait to see it at night.

Saturday 05:12

You may have noticed the time of this entry, and yes, that is correct! With the night running of this event my body clock has become totally dis-orientated. Looking at the time now is completely irrelevant, as apart from making sure you don't miss a session it's basically a meaningless number! It's a very odd state to find yourself in, but it definitely adds a unique dimension to this race.

View from the Esplanade MRT Station
Credit: Alex J Snell

As for today, no wait, yesterday (you see what I mean!), it was simply an epic day. Starting with the circuit itself nothing so far is comparable. The view across the harbour is spectacular, and the integration of the track into the city is fantastic Even if it is a little tricky to find your way through the maze of shopping centres which connect the various zones! It doesn't stop there though, there are also motocross displays, Chippendale shows, umpteen street performers, and a particularly memorable carnival train shaking it's thing - it really is going off here!

As for the concept of a night race, well it's an unquestionable success. It adds such a unique element to the atmosphere of this race, and the cars? The cars look almost luminescent under the lights, adding this visual spectacle to that glorious aural assault of an F1 engine creates an intoxicating mix. It really is as spectacular as it's made out to be, and not to be overlooked - an incredible feat of engineering.

Fans gather and the big wheel lights the way as the track action begins
Credit: Alex J Snell

Sunday 15:30

I've just come back from a brief paddock visit thanks to Lee, an FOM cameraman whom I apparently met on Wednesday night. I say apparently as I really don't remember it, so when I received his text it was a bit of a shock! But I needn't of worried as he didn't recognise me at all, in fact he walked straight past me whilst I was waiting at the gate for him! So I clearly wasn't the only one who's recall of events that night is a little hazy! Walking through the paddock with him today literally everyone we passed said hello to him, from Bernd Maylander the safety car driver to Ross Brawn, he knew them all! After a quick tour he left me to explore on my own, so off I trundled to the VR home to say hi to the guys. I promised I'd mention them, so hey guys! And in my completely unbiased opinion they offer the best welcome in the paddock by far!!

So after enjoying their hospitality time sadly ran out on my pass, handing it back I thanked Lee and here I am, back at my grandstand.

Sunday 22:38

Nothing much to say other than what an epic race!!

Singapore leaves a lasting impression, both on and off track
Credit: Alex J Snell

Monday 05:56

It's time for me to turn in now, my race weekend being officially over. This is always a strange moment for me, I've always mixed emotions. On the one hand you find yourself looking back on a fabulous weekend, both on and off the track. But then also there's the realisation that it's another race down, and the season finale is looming ever closer.

Focusing on the positives though this really has been an amazing experience. The racing was action-packed, and the circuit every bit as stunning as I'd hoped it would be. As for Singapore as a city, it's a wonderful mix. You've the contrasting wealth and opulence of the newly developed Marina Bay, alongside such historic architecture as the grandiose Raffles hotel. And then you've the traditional Singapore, the Hawker food courts, the markets, the street theatres, it's a sharp contrast which makes this city so very interesting.

Race 16 - Japan

The Senso-joi Temple creates a striking image
Credit: Alex J Snell

Tuesday 22:51

It's been a long but fantastic day, and I've got that wholly satisfying feeling of being tired but knowing it's for good reason. I've barely scratched the surface of what Tokyo has to offer, but it's impossible not to be enthused by this city. First on the agenda today were the imperial Gardens in central Tokyo, followed by an afternoon spent wandering the streets of Ginza. Here you'll find all the upmarket stores, and a very cool Sony Centre that any of you techno-geeks out there will love.

As for this evening I took a wander up and down Center Gai in Shibuya, and along the main strip of Roppongi. Whilst Roppongi was very much your typical entertainment high street, Center Gai was far closer to the Neon lit Tokyo I'd imagined. By this time though I was beginning to flag, so via a 7/11 I headed back here. I mention the store because I took my usual lucky dip approach of grabbing a few random packs and seeing what I'd got. This time I'm pretty sure one them was chicken, the other squid, but as for the third, well I'm stumped! To be honest though, I genuinely think that there comes a point when it's best just to remain in your safe state of ignorance!

Wednesday 20:29

You now find me on the 52nd floor of the Park Hyatt Hotel, and before me is a simply breathtaking view of Tokyo at night. The flickering sea of neon seems endless from up here, it's the kind of view that you just get lost in. As for the hotel, well every cliche is accounted for. From the vast marble pillars and the carpet thick enough to sink in, to the silky jazz band and the hum of polite dinner conversation. Ah, and right on cue the waiter has just brought me my drink. If you're curious it's a Creme Brulee Martini, and the embarrassment of having to order it was so worth it - it is divine!

Wednesday 21:07

Think I'll have another of those, they're rather good you know!

Friday 01:45

Well you can chalk this evening up as yet another corker! Tonight I was interviewed by none other than Will Buxton, and for a piece destined for F1 Racing, unbelievable! I've been Reading that mag for the past decade, and now I'm potentially going to be in it - the world's gone bonkers!

Friday 15:35

My expectations were high coming into this weekend, and it's already obvious that Suzuka more than lives up to it's reputation. Today was a walkabout day, which left me free to really get stuck into exploring this circuit. Where to start? The 'S' curves - majestic, 130R - neck breakingly quick, Last Chicane - jaw dropping panoramic views. This track has everything. Including the only crossover on the calendar, which looks just fantastic. And not forgetting the fans, who rank easily as some of the most enthusiastic I've seen all year. As you can tell, I rather like this place!

Saturday 10:15

I wasn't wrong! I've just come back from a personal tour of Race Control! And my guide? None other than Herbie Blash! (who it turns out is an absolutely lovely chap). Now this was a serious privilege, as Herbie himself said, nobody bar FIA personnel have access to the main control room. Not the teams, not the drivers, not the press, no one. So to find myself sitting there as Herbie ran through the myriad of data feeds he has to keep on top of during a session was totally mind-blowing! This was the kind of behind the scenes access that even people IN F1 can only dream of, let alone joe public! Yet again I have the unfailing generosity of Virgin Racing's Mr. Collins to thank for this, which at the very least has seen him rocket to the top of my Christmas card list! It really brings home just how very lucky I've been to have met such amazing people along the way, and that so many of them have gone out of their way to make this trip so, so, memorable for me.

Lucas and Timo pass the time in non-qualifying with a spot of poker
Credit: Alex J Snell

Saturday 18:23

Whilst I can imagine that most fans had a pretty dire time of it at the track today, I had quite the reverse. After the tour of race control I was given pretty much free reign over the pits & paddock! And with barely a wheel turned all afternoon the atmosphere was more like a teacher-less classroom than than the usual qualifying induced pressure cooker. You had various teams turning their hand to nautical design, as they attempted to sail their homemade craft down the stream which had formed along the pit lane. Whilst at the Virgin Garage Timo & Lucas had crafted a makeshift poker table out of a box and a couple of slicks. Plonking it outside the front of the garage they were soon bluffing and raising their way through what should have been qualifying! Up and down the pitlane the teams were turning to mischief to keep themselves entertained, I honestly don't think I could have picked a better day to have been gifted a pass!

Sunday 06:30

What with qualifying being shifted to today my planned lay-in this morning has been scuppered! So here I am on the train to the circuit for a seriously busy day's racing! Weather wise it's looking a lot more favourable today, and the train is rammed to the hilt with eager fans.

Hamilton had a tricky day at Suzuka, pushing the title even further away
Credit: Alex J Snell

Sunday 17:57

Looks like it's now down to the two Red Bulls and Alonso for the championship then? Whilst there wasn't much action at the sharp end, there was plenty of carbon fibre shed out on track today. Notably Rosberg who knifed off right in front of our section, and of course, the home favourite - Kamakazi Kobyashi! Who's battling drive drew rapturous applause from his legions of fans here.

Race over I lingered briefly to catch the press conference before leaving via the ruthlessly efficient queuing system they operate here (other circuits take note). As we all filed through the circuit staff took to lining the path. Flags in hand they were all full of smiles and waves goodbye. Now you might say that screams cheesy (undoubtedly it does), but it was a nice touch nevertheless.

Looking over my shoulder as I finally clambered onto the bus, this immense circuit had one final parting gift for me, a view to remember. In the foreground the Green neon of the big wheel alongside the looming silhouette of the main grandstand. Both of which were set against a stunning blue and yellow haze, slowly sinking over the distant mountain horizon. Epic, just like my time here.

Stay tuned for the next chapter in Alex's adventure, and check out more great pictures on his Flickr account.

All content in the series The Unofficial F1 World Tour 2010