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Why Singapore succeeds where Korea, India have struggled
Posted By: James Allen  |  19 Sep 2013   |  9:14 am GMT  |  86 comments

Why has Singapore quickly become one of F1’s most important and successful races, where events in places like Korea and India have floundered?

Of course the charisma of the night race and the economic location of the event, in the business gateway to Asia are significant factors. But the reason why it works so well is the business model for organising the event. And it’s one other F1 races and aspiring hosts would do well to emulate.

The key to it is a public/private model; a 60-40 split between the Singapore government and a private company owned by entrepreneur Ong Beng Seng, whose property, hotels and lifestyle business also extends to operating Ferrari dealerships in Singapore and Shanghai. Ong was the first to bring Haagen Dazs ice cream to Asia and is one of Singapore’s main concert promoters via his Lushington Entertainments company.

The government takes 60% of the financial risk in return for 60% of the returns, Ong’s company fronts 40% of the costs and gets 40% of the revenues. By doing it this way, the government doesn’t get accused by critics of wasting public money on an F1 race (like Melbourne for example), it can point to a heathly profit. But crucially it makes it worth it for the entrepreneurial promoter.

“It’s a 60-40 split, although a lot of the infrastructure was paid by the government at the outset,” says Syn. “The government takes risk but gets upside. We share the risks. The new Grand Prix venues are looking at it, the Thais (the aspiring Thailand Grand Prix organisers), for example. It’s the best way.

“If you don’t get the government behind you it doesn’t work. The first year we had to submit plans and road closures. The government had given the green light so all our plans were fast tracked.”

Too many promoters are exposed to risk and when they fail to meet financial deadlines, the event collapses. Singapore in contrast is in the first year of a new five year contract with F1 and is almost sold out for spectators and corporate guests. Data issued by the Singapore Tourist Office shows that there is a 12% increase in inbound air traffic this weekend due to the Grand Prix. One of the targets Singapore GP Ltd has to hit is 40% of the spectators coming from outside Singapore, a target they have hit – just – in each of the first five years.

Overall attendance for the Singapore GP last year was around 260,000, an average of just over 80,000 people each day. This year looks set to be an increase on that. Figures from the Singapore Tourist Office claim that the event brings in 150 million Singapore dollars. 17% of the fans come from Australia, with 8% from the UK and 6% from Indonesia.

According to an Insight articleon the website of JA on F1 partner UBS, the idea for a night race was Bernie Ecclestone’s; when the Singapore GP team were waiting for him in his office in London,

“All of a sudden he stretched his hand in and switched off the lights,” says Colin Syn, the event organiser. “Then he opened the door, switched on the lights and said, ‘I want a night race!’ “

It took just 18 months from that point to the F1 cars running on the streets around the Marina Bay circuit for the first race and since then the event has become a blueprint for how a Grand Prix should be run.

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In India f1 is also like korea and i think that f1 race would not survive in India


I have to comment on this “piece” about why Singapore is successful and Korea/India are not.

I cannot speak to the situation in India, but can give a first hand view of Korea and why the race was doomed before they even broke ground.

1. The track was built at a location that is literally the furthest that one could physically be from Seoul, and in a shipyard town to boot. Koreans don’t even go there unless they are in that industry.

2. The construction was mismanaged from the word go.

3. There was NO promotion of any kind before the track opened. Remember the famous airplane photo of the track under construction? There was a reason there weren’t any photos-they were chronically behind schedule.

4. They didn’t have a professional marketing firm promote the race. I don’t think it would have helped if they did, though.

5. The only publicity they got was negative, destroying any trust in the event, hence all the series cancellations prior to the first F1 race. The track not being finished didn’t help, either. LOL

6. Internet presence was non-existent. Having to go to Wikipedia to find a WORKING URL for the race? WTF?

7. Attitude. Just like the Autopia debacle where the track and hotel were locked up a week before the inaugural race because of an internal pissing match, the ignorant arrogance of the people who were in charge of Yeongam kept them from getting professional, experienced help, and it drove the few qualified individuals they had away from the project.

Basically, the whole thing was run as if it were an local county fair, not an international sporting event.

Having spoken (at the 2012 race) with two individuals who were in charge of two of the seven items mentioned above, I saw first-hand why the race was doomed.

They were incompetent idiots.

It was difficult not to laugh in their face while talking to them, so I pointed out the the website hasn’t worked properly since day one, the numerous English errors on brochures, the banners that surrounded us, not to mention on the safety cars, the housing situation… Where do I stop?

I think that the Korean contingent were such a pain in the A55 for Bernie that he got the highest hosting fee from them just to spite them!

Anyways, I just thought that the perspective from a person who has lived in Korea for over a decade (and has carefully watched this unfold in both English and Korean media) could shed some light on the subject.

Kudos to Singapore for hosting a fantastic event!

Chris Rhee


By far one of the worst to watch as a tv viewer,the track is as exciting as the Valencia street track was,only good thing going for it is that it`s lunchtime in Europe.


Singapore is now the Monaco of the East. Slow street circuit, high chance of safety car, make-a-mistake-and-you’re-out-of-the-race!, electrifying…

Singapore’s government is autocratic to the extreme, but it was built that way after WWII had decimated the place, and left them with nothing but a harbour and an English-modelled education system. From that they rebuilt into a powerhouse measured in a few square miles. Singapore pays their politicians very well (to avoid corruption), they all have advanced tech or business degrees, and they run the country like a benevolent business…something that more countries should aspire to. They do not brook dissent – the the overall results speak for themselves. The Singapore GP allows the country to sparkle on the world stage one incredible night a year…


Bob. Thanks for your compliments about my country. Unfortunately, I have to say that your views are outdated. I am a Singaporean and I most certainly speak my mind when I disagree with govt policies, without any recriminations. There is a distinction between being constructive in your disagreements and doing so just for the sake of it


I wish I could have a picture with here at Singapore GP. Been a fan since I started being a fan of F1.


With respect to India, the British rules us for 400 years and when they went back, they left their Bureaucracy behind and a weak Parliament system which has not changed that much to this date.

So yeah… Hoping to see a lot of better reviews this year for the GP and in 2015 if they manage to be on the calendar that is…


I wanna point out something here. Scrap the night race and make the race sometime in the day or something on the lines of what Melbourne is doing.

I don’t know if I am the only one to say this, the track looks more beautiful in the day rather than the night to be honest. Make no mistake, the spectacle is a success as it is now. But I would say, much of the Singapore skyline is not visible at night (apart from the lights) and it fairly looks like an indoor race track to me apart from the helicopter shots.

Just watch today’s FP1 session before the sun goes down. You’ll see what I mean. Night races can be held in purpose built circuits where there is not much to see in the horizon like Bahrain. And I understand they are doing it next year. So great move there.


Take a ride on the Singapore Flyer – I think you may change your mind. I love the place, it’s truly one of my favourite places to be, but the views once you get past the CBD are predominantly vast swathes of apartment blocks in comparison to say, the London Wheel(looking North) where day time views are far more spectacular and where a race around Embankment would be amazing in the day time but a waste at night time. Marina Bay and the CBD when illuminated is all you need to see and says everything you need to know about this interesting city state and modern F1 at the same time.

I have family living in Singapore, I’ve been several times to visit and have been around most of the island, but the landscape and spectacle is nothing compared to the British countryside or the Royal Park in Monza, or the trip through the forest at Spa to name but a few with no disrespect to Singapore’s reclaimed mildly hilly vistas! I was at the first race(where security was lax to my advantage!) and saw Piquet Jr do his thing right in front of me, and being a night race is, for me, a must. We already have the purist’s races, the classic races, the camping and BBQ races, we even have the pinnacle races like Monaco but the Singapore F1 Night race is stand alone unique and I hope it remains that way.


Ben … not fair to compare what is essentially a very small island metropolis with a huge country like Great Britain. But we are working at improving the look and feel of the country for your visits in the future. Cheers!


Hello James,

I have flown from Australia to see the GP. Im staying in the a 5 star hotel at US500 a night. i have come up with some business colleages. Cheap it aint as we paid about US900 for a three day grandstand seat and the restaurants are very expensive. the program ie racing looks a bit lite on with only GP2, Porsche Supercup and FI on the track. I will post back later my thoughts. Have been to about a dozen OZ gps so im interested to compare the experience. Cheers


Thanks for sharing


Hi James, as I said I,m happy to share my experience of the Singapore GP from a fans point of view. I haven’t been to Singapore for about 20 years and it is now a very first world modern city, most unlike the rest of Asia. The event itself is very well promoted and everywhere you can see the GP is on and the locals seem to embrace it. The taxi drivers, shopkeepers, everyone talks about it. The view from the track over the city skyline is absolutely spectacular and obviously very unique to this city. We used the subway system to get the track each day which was cheap, simple and clean. The facilities around and inside the track for food and beverage were great if a little expensive, but that’s no surprise. The promoters have taken a leaf from recent Australian experience and have booked and heavily promoted an entertainment angle with acts like Tom Jones and rianna and that kid beieber or whatever its called. And that’s the rub, it isn’t so much a motorsport event, it’s an entertainment event. The fact that I’m on this forum means I’m a motorsport fan and this is where I think this event misses the mark. Over the three days only GP2, Asia Porsche cup and F1 are on track. All good series of course but there were a lot of gaps when there was nothing happening on track. On the Sunday there was the GP2 race, their second for the weekend, the Porsche race which was the only race they did and the F1 race. On Saturday the only race was the GP2. No touring cars, no celebrity race, no historic racing or even flyovers. Not even static displays on the infield. The only historic cars i saw were the 22 cars they used for the drivers parade. No motorsport emphasis at all, just the acts on stage. The other complaint is the same for all street circuits is it is difficult to get to a point where you can see the cars working. You get a glimpse as they flash past or a long view of a long straight, but that’s a minor point. The race itself we watched from a grandstand seat at turn one and with the big screens i knew what was happening and the race was good. I did miss the Kangaroo TV though, that needs to be brought back somehow…. Anyway we had a good entertainment weekend (Tom Jones before the race was pretty good) but from a motorsport perspective is was pretty lame which was a shame. What motorsport we saw was good but there wasn’t enough of it, not by a long shot.

I spent about USD6000 for the weekend not including airfares but for my motorsport fix I will visit lots of other venues before I come back again. I had fun and I’m happy I went but my motorsport itch didn’t get scratched.

Any other visitors to Singapore have any comments?



There are international super star concerts happening on the same weekend as well.


This is your best article!


But isn’t the whole point now that the number of spectators is almost irrelevant?

As long as Bernie can find circuits willing to hand over vast sums of money then it’s good for F1, right? The fact that those circuits realise that it’s not sustainable some years down the trackand thus disappear is not important, as another circuit will have joined the queue to try their luck.

So from that point of view, Korea and India have indeed been a success for F1.


No because you want to grow a sport in these countries


As an economist, I must say; I only care about having a night race in a major metropolitan city on the F1 calendar.

And Singapore is SPECTACULAR.


Just curious – does it cost more to hold a GP on a street circuit than it does at a dedicated track or less? Or is there any difference?


The article is a reasonable sketch, and clearly doesn’t cover all key issues.

As usual the quality of this forum makes very valid observations, that adds to the article.

Here’s my 5 cents: if I were the government running Monaco or Singapore, I’d put my weight behind an event such as F1 because it contributes to the economy of the geographic area surrounding the F1 event – which is quite a bit of the country.

If I were the government running a country like China, Indonesia or Vietnam, putting my weight for an event that just benefitted the economy of one particular city in a vast and diverse country – would not be high on my list of priorities in running the country’s economic development.

There would be many other alternatives to F1 that better contribute to the country’s development – such as education and infrastructure. Those areas would gain my focus.


Shall we get back to more interesting topics like whether Mercedes will regain their form on a high down force circuit? Whether the new Singapore Sling corner will create some late braking dive down the inside attempts at overtaking, resulting in multiple safety cars? etc


Singapore needs to stay, it is the longest and most gruelling test for the drivers and teams- James Allen already wrote a detailed article on that- which was concise and very good!

The tracks that I want off from the calendar is definitely Abu Dhabi and yes this may sound a little controversial, but the Circuit de Catalunya should also be off- can’t stand that track, I even prefer the Indian and Korean Grand Prix over it.


Don’t worry mate, I hear you. Not a huge fan of Catalunya either. Especially the chicane they added at the end of the lap..


There would be a lot of disappointed Spaniards if that happened!


I’ve been to Singapore and Seoul, and as a regular tourist i’d rather be in Seoul than Singapore any given day. Singapore reminds me a giant boardroom run by technocrats with a whip and a noose. Maybe its a great place to be if you are a “corporate funded fan”, but as an motorsports fan who likes to have fun, i’d rather go to Melbourne, Malaysia or even India to enjoy the sport.

Once upon a time, F1 cars pounded legendary circuits like Watkins Glen, Jarama, Kyalami and Imola where real fans turned up, real drivers raced hard, beer flowed, barbecues smoked , tents were pitched and engines were tuned. And today we have corporate run Abu Dhabis and Singapores , where drivers complain “Did charlie see that?” and fans are fined/jailed for chewing gum or opening a beverage,and forget about grilling food or selling your engine tuning skills to other fans. How times have changed!


I’m afraid you’re stuck in a time warp of outdated stereotypes about Singapore.


F1 does offer various “experiences” for different market segments. The purist racing fan (who would make the effort and travel to classic circuits like Spa); the “single party girl” (like my friend who’s just flown 4 hours to Singapore for this weekend’s F1 and live gigs).

Webber’s classic “Monaco’s too much little dogs in handbags for me” comes to mind. Horses for courses. The world would be less interesting without the party girls . . . oops I meant, without variety.


Interesting to see how many Australians are spending the time and money to see the Singapore GP. I have a feeling many of them aren’t interested in the cheaper option to go to a race in Melbourne.


It’s cheaper to fly and stay in Sing than Melbourne


The Singapore GP is probably now as established as any of the traditional European races and a joy to the eye to watch.

Even more impressive is that it makes Singapore look like a fun vibrant place to be. Anyone who has been spent anytime there knows it is like Luxemburg but with heat.

It just goes to show what a wonderful promotional tool having a well run Grand Prix can be and just why Bernie can afford to charge show much.


Ross … you need to get around more the next time you come



Is it not the case at Korea and India have different problems.

Korea – no one turns up and it is in the middle of nowhere

India – the teams have paperwork to complete and tax issues

So is it not easier to fix the India situation?

People attend, big new market for sponsors etc


Very good points. Agreed. Singapore is a small city that’s already developed.


I would say that the success of the GP is less to do with the business model and more to do with the simple logistics of it being right in the middle of a international tourist hotspot! Surely no competent organiser could muck this one up.


Your point is supported by the popularity of the other races located in populated districts: Melbourne, Monaco, Montreal.

Build a track in the middle of nowhere and you are relying on dedicated fans to make a special effort to get there.


Amazing work by singapore people to plan execute a race in 18 months. i stay in india. have gone to all 3 race of singapore,Malaysia,India. had been a marshal in India. Singapore is world apart. it atmosphere everything is electric. while in India is sorry state. 90% people dont understand the sport. everyone comes just as to see a circus. Its not there fault. cant expect more from them when the maximum speed limit of 50KMPH on any road.


Hmmm in other words lower speed limit inhibits people’s ability to understand motor sport?

Didn’t knew that co-relation existed.

Here in US speed limit is upto 130km/h(80 mph) but still 95% of people don’t have a clue about F1. so that is a counter point to your theory.

prasanna madhavan

by the other way. people are more concerned about there life. INDIA is going down big time because of the economy. Petrol prices have raised 200%, Food prices are have raised more than 245%. GDP has gone down. its going into a hole, people are getting fired left right and center. i hardly expect 30% ticket sales in this year


Motorsport is still third most watched sport in India followed by Cricket and Tennis.

It’s just need a decent driver to take the sport to next level in India.

Also, as pointed by James if govt of india has helped Indian Grand Prix then it would have been a run away success though it still has done reasonably well.

prasanna madhavan

People think motorsports is waste of money and time. They dont understand the importance of it.they dont understand what ever safety measure and research which goes into it is transferred to road car’s. It was a interesting argument with my mom, who knows F1 for last 20 years and a follower of MSC. she said to me today afternoon, she read a blog where it was written people in motorsport people should dedicate there energy in marketing and research. but she knows the same car she zips in a Road our AUDI S4 at 120KMPH on the freeway we have in mumbai (which has a limit of 50KMPH) has the safety features are all from F1. I push the car till 250KMPH. max of the car is 290KMPH.There are bloke’s in Media who have no knowledge in what motorsport is. Its India Man no rules to follow, hardly find a cop with a speed Gun. even if caught give a bribe of RS 100 ($ 1.40)even if you don’t have driver’s license, insurance, Pollution tax, road Tax paper’s. with 1.40$ you get away. Its India, welcome to the Jungle


Prassanna, it definitly feels good to drive fast but I hope you dont become one of those ‘bmw headlines’from yesteryears! you are lucky that you can pay 100 rs to get out of this…If you were in US caught doing these speeds, you would be charged for manslaughter. I hope you realize this, anyway have fun.


Singapore is now known as the jewel of the east. Very fitting and deserving too. Well planned and lots of hard work got us where we are now. I know some still don’t like the track configuration like myself but I’ve grown to like it very much now and the atmosphere is truly awesome. This is my sixth year visiting the races faithfully. More and more overseas fans are filling the stands from my observation and there was no urgency for local advertising at all.

James you must be feeling hot, humid and sticky lol.


+1. Track was boring but every year it seems to become more and more unique. Not many chances you get to watch a race from in a pool up a sky scraper eh!


Only in daylight . It’s lovely once the sun goes down


Just don’t pat any small dogs with long tails you see after sundown. The rats are huge there.


Beautiful event, this one is fast joining my list of races not to miss during the year.


Aah yes a 60/40 business mode makes a lot of sense and just goes to show, were there’s a political will, there’s a way.

But as mentioned above, the Singapore race has a number of advantages which other conventional circuit may not have.

Firstly, Singapore is the Asian version of Monaco and so is a top tourist destination even on a normal day.

Taking this into account, the government made a calculated risk of funding the race.

Secondly the Singapore race is right smack in the city center making mobility to and fro the circuit fairly easy for families and casual fans and so the circuit is also guaranteed to turn a profit.

The same can’t be said of desolate circuits in the middle of no where like the Korean one whereas Melbourne is at the tip of the world so many fans can’t make it that far.

As for Bernie, ha, I see he still gets what he wants. One can only wonder what other things he has demanded >>> rule changes perhaps.


Sorry, James. This [mod] piece provided by the Singapore Tourist & Propaganda Office is just silly beyond words. Singapore is a dictatorship loosely masquerading as a democracy as anyone familiar with Singapore knows. It does not have to answer to critics. It just silences them. The private partner is simply there to take the blame if the venture fails and certain politicians don’t want to lose face as a result.

That said, the race is well organized and attractive to visitors but any competent goverment sponsored organization could do the same.


It is true that Singapore has an autocratic government, but by comparison in it’s services to the populace, it’s cleanliness and safety, it puts most other governments to shame… including the U.S.

I love visiting Singapore… a clean, vibrant and safe NYC…. and they have an F-1 race, which we will never see in NYC.


Just live there for a while. You’ll stop thinking it’s so great…

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