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2017 Formula One Singapore Grand Prix – The first ever wet F1 race at night

So last weekend was a historic race huh? For the first time in the long Formula One history, we had a wet race at night! So that was a pretty cool experience to be in the first one ever. Oh and the Ferraris before retiring on Lap 1 for the first time ever too which really made my weekend haha.

 

So after my bad experience of sitting in a grandstand in Singapore 2 years ago and saying I probably won’t ever get another grandstand sit here again….yup I bought one. I couldn’t help it and I just had to give it a try so this time I went for the Esplanade Bayfront grandstand, I thought it might be a good spot to check out. Turned out to be a really good spot so I’m glad I did get seats there.

 

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For once, I didn’t really do much in the lead up to the racing weekend. It didn’t help not hearing about any driver’s public events or appearances anywhere! They must have been all private events this year so that really sucked. You want to bring the sport closer to the fans but you keep blocking them off with little events and the only way to go to their autograph session is by winning tickets for it. Not cool. They really need to look at the way Australia does it.

 

I was really looking forward to watching the cars in action this year. Unlike some others, I actually do like how the cars look this year. And there were some good looking cars this year. Toro Rosso, Force India, McLaren, Sauber and Renault all have great liveries on their cars for the 2017 season. Quite rare to have that many good ones on the same grid.

 

So for Friday I started the day out at Turns 11/12. Since I was stuck in zone 4 for this year, that was the first place I had in mind to check out. After all, there aren’t many good spots in zone 4 so I might as well spend most of my time at the better spots. At any point you could be seeing the cars from the side view, the back view or the front view around that Turns 11-12 area. Good spot for taking pictures of the cars too. So much so I spent the entire FP1 at the Turns 10-12 area.

 

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If you’re ever at the Singapore Grand Prix and all you’ve got is a zone 4 ticket, the really good spots are at Turn 8, 11/12 and 14. I even tried to see the action at the turn 13 hairpin but you had to stand on a railing just to see the cars. The bit before Turn 14 is also another good spot, that’s the place where you’ll hear the cars at their “loudest” and also the easiest place to see sparks flying off these cars which is always a nice visual. Too bad I can never get a good picture for it. It’s usually the one spot where I’ll be taking videos instead of pictures. You can actually hear the differences from each power units in action.

 


There is an interesting spot on top of the Esplande building overlooking Turn 15, you can see the cars from the view of the 4th floor and since the building is inside the circuit, anyone with a ticket can watch it from there. It’s also one of the few spots around the track where you can get a picture of these cars without those catch fences being in the way but only for one specific spot. I liked it so much I almost spent all of FP3 at that spot. I probably should have as I didn’t get one good picture of the cars from Turn 15 when I decided to switch with 20 minutes to go.

 

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The atmosphere was amazing with fans from everywhere coming down to Singapore. There were people from Netherlands (lots of Dutch fans here), Denmark, Mexico, Canada and even good ol’ USA but the main ones are the Brits and the Aussies. I ended up sitting around some of them during the race and of course they had a friendly banter with one another with Hamilton and Ricciardo fighting for the win.
There’s no clear cut favourites on who the fans all support so it’s nice to see all different supporters, as it tends to be the case around here. You’ll always hear a cheer for either the Ferrari guys, Mercedes guys, Red Bull guys or the McLaren guys (McLaren fan here). Oh if you were wondering, there was a loud cheer when the two Ferraris crashed into each other during the race. Guess my area was the anti-Ferrari zone.

 

The same can be said during qualifying. I went back to Turn 11 because there was a super screen there and I wanted to see what times everyone was doing. The crowd around me for qualifying were pro-Verstappen. I was a bit surprised to see a lot of Dutch fans here in Singapore, they really do travel around to support their guys. Good on them. I was sure a Red Bull car would be on pole position with how quick they were in all three practice session but of course Sebastian Vettel had to ruin that and take pole away. Laugh it up Ferrari fans, guess who got the last laugh?

 

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For once I didn’t really bother with the music concerts. I mean look who was there. One Republic? Don’t know them. Chainsmokers? Never heard of them. Calvin Harris? Who the heck is he? I honestly have not heard of him until the friday of the racing weekend. Turns out his is dance music. Really, you’re going to have that shit at an F1 circuit? Where’s our rock & roll music? I mean think about it, F1 is an adrenaline pumping sport, rock and roll gives you that adrenaline rush too! I mean it’s perfect for an F1 race and it’s my kind of music. So until we get someone good, I won’t bother with these concerts. Then again, I’m here at an F1 circuit for the racing itself. I guess you can see why the Australian Grand Prix is still my favourite race to visit, it’s all racing there.

 

So Sunday was fun in some ways. Looking up in the sky, I knew this could be the day we actually do get hit by the rain during the racing weekend. For some weird reason, the only time it has rained was two Fridays and it was well before any of the F1 practice sessions started. The weather really didn’t help that day. It was raining, then it stopped, then it rained again, then it stopped again, it went on and on. Especially around 10 minutes before the race started, the rain came down again. It wasn’t fun hiding under the grandstand to avoid the rain and still get hit by it! Oh and a piece of advice here, always bring a poncho! I forgot to bring mine and I had to buy one (just for $2) because they didn’t allow umbrellas to be used in the grandstands. I should have known better from my experiences in Suzuka and Melbourne.

 

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So the rain actually rejuvenated the fans around my area, we were all psyched and ready to see the start of the race. We all kinda knew we were about to witness history, the first ever wet race at night in F1. And these guys have never raced around the track in the wet session too so it was a step into the unknown for everyone involved.

 

And then the start happened. So if you didn’t see, how did you not? Vettel started on pole, Verstappen 2nd and Raikkonen 3rd. Kimi gets a better start then the front two, Seb gets a slower start, tries to cut off Max and this caused Kimi to hit Max and then his own team-mate! The Ferrari guys took each other out! HAHAHAHAHAHA! I’ve never had a good laught at a race like that. People who know me knows how much I hate Ferrari so this felt like my birthday, the greatest gift of them all seeing those two cars out in the first lap!

 

It was weird seeing the cars race while shivering in my poncho. This was actually my first wet race! I’ve seen wet practice or qualifying sessions in Melbourne, Suzuka and Sepang but never the race itself. Of course I had a tall bloke sitting in front of me in a grandstand as per usual but this time he didn’t really block my view that much when trying to take a picture of the F1 cars in actions.

 

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In the end it was Lewis Hamilton picking up an unlikely win in Singapore. I wasn’t expecting to see a Mercedes car on the podium this weekend since Singapore is their weakest track so to see both of them on the podium was something else. Good ol’ Daniel Ricciardo was on the podium for the fourth year in a row but still not the win. One day Dan will get it and I hope I’ll be near the podium to see it happen. Special shout out to Carlos Sainz, Jolyon Palmer and Stoffel Vandoorne, all 3 of them got their best career finishes in that race with 4th, 6th and 7th respectively.

 

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So it was another good weekend at the Marina Bay street circuit. I already know which tickets I’m aiming to get for next year’s race. Yes, there will be a next year after the news broke that Singapore has re-signed the race for another 4 more years among all the other breaking news to come out last weekend (McLaren switching to Renault power, Toro Rosso switching to Honda power and Carlos Sainz moving to Renault as part of the whole deal). Always good to have my fix of racing in for the year and hey, it won’t be the last, I’ll be at Sepang for the final Malaysian Grand Prix. I hope it doesn’t rain there too.

 

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Formula One 2017 Season: Starts Today!

The 2017 Formula One season is starting today over in Melbourne, Australia! Nothing beats watching F1 cars in action (well, maybe apart from watching IndyCars too) and I can’t wait to see how the new regulations will shake up the order, if it even does that which so far looks as if it won’t. Hopefully we will get some good racing at least. And as always, I’ll say this, I wish I was in Melbourne right now. Been there twice, enjoyed it both times. Hopefully going there for a third time soon.

 

So those of you who aren’t familiar to the F1 or new to racing, here’s a little guide on who’s driving for which team. Well, the full-time drivers that is.

 

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Mercedes

#44 Lewis Hamilton (England)
Age: 32
Races: 188
Wins: 53
Podiums: 104
Poles: 61
Fastest Laps: 31
Points: 2,247
Finishing Rate: 87.77%

#77 Valtteri Bottas (Finland)
Age: 27
Races: 77
Wins: 0
Podiums: 9
Poles: 0
Fastest Laps: 1
Points: 411
Finishing Rate: 92.21%

 

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Red Bull TAG Heuer

#3 Daniel Ricciardo (Australia)
Age: 27
Races: 109
Wins: 4
Podiums: 18
Poles: 1
Fastest Laps: 8
Points: 616
Finishing Rate: 90.83%

#33 Max Verstappen (Netherlands)
Age: 19
Races: 40
Wins: 1
Podiums: 7
Poles: 0
Fastest Laps: 1
Points: 253
Finishing Rate: 82.5%

 

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Ferrari

#5 Sebastian Vettel (Germany)
Age: 29
Races: 178
Wins: 42
Podiums: 85
Poles: 46
Fastest Laps: 28
Points: 2,108
Finishing Rate: 85.96%

#7 Kimi Räikkönen (Finland)
Age: 37
Races: 252
Wins: 20
Podiums: 84
Poles: 16
Fastest Laps: 43
Points: 1,360
Finishing Rate: 78.57%

 

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Force India Mercedes

#11 Sergio Perez (Mexico)
Age: 27
Races: 114
Wins: 0
Podiums: 7
Poles: 0
Fastest Laps: 3
Points: 367
Finishing Rate: 88.56%

#31 Esteban Ocon (France)
Age: 20
Races: 9
Wins: 0
Podiums: 0
Poles: 0
Fastest Laps: 0
Points: 0
Finishing Rate: 100%

 

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Williams Mercedes

#18 Lance Stroll (Canada)
Age: 18
Races: 0
Wins: 0
Podiums: 0
Poles: 0
Fastest Laps: 0
Points: 0
Finishing Rate: 0%

#19 Felipe Massa (Brazil)
Age: 35
Races: 250
Wins: 11
Podiums: 41
Poles: 16
Fastest Laps: 15
Points: 1,124
Finishing Rate: 85.6%

 

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McLaren Honda

#2 Stoffel Vandoorne (Belgium)
Age: 24
Races: 1
Wins: 0
Podiums: 0
Poles: 0
Fastest Laps: 0
Points: 1
Finishing Rate: 100%

#14 Fernando Alonso (Spain)
Age: 35
Races: 273
Wins: 32
Podiums: 0
Poles: 22
Fastest Laps: 22
Points: 1,832
Finishing Rate: 83.52%

 

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Toro Rosso Ferrari

#26 Daniil Kvyat (Russia)
Age: 22
Races: 57
Wins: 0
Podiums: 2
Poles: 0
Fastest Laps: 1
Points: 128
Finishing Rate: 78.94%

#55 Carlos Sainz (Spain)
Age: 22
Races: 40
Wins: 0
Podiums: 0
Poles: 0
Fastest Laps: 0
Points: 64
Finishing Rate: 72.5%

 

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Haas Ferrrari

#8 Romain Grosjean (France)
Age: 30
Races: 102
Wins: 0
Podiums: 10
Poles: 0
Fastest Laps: 1
Points: 316
Finishing Rate: 72.55%

#20 Kevin Magnussen (Denmark)
Age: 24
Races: 40
Wins: 0
Podiums: 1
Poles: 0
Fastest Laps: 0
Points: 62
Finishing Rate: 87.5%

 

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Renault

#27 Nico Hülkenberg (Germany)
Age: 29
Races: 115
Wins: 0
Podiums: 0
Poles: 1
Fastest Laps: 2
Points: 362
Finishing Rate: 84.34%

#30 Jolyon Palmer (England)
Age: 26
Races: 20
Wins: 0
Podiums: 0
Poles: 0
Fastest Laps: 0
Points: 1
Finishing Rate: 75%

 

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Sauber Ferrari

#9 Marcus Ericsson (Sweden)
Age: 26
Races: 56
Wins: 0
Podiums: 0
Poles: 0
Fastest Laps: 0
Points: 9
Finishing Rate: 76.79%

#94 Pascal Wehrlein
Age: 22
Races: 21
Wins: 0
Podiums: 0
Poles: 0
Fastest Laps: 0
Points: 1
Finishing Rate: 76.19%

 

The big story of the season I guess will be the fight at the top. It looks like it won’t be a one-team race like we’ve seen for the past few years. Ferrari have definitely caught up with Mercedes and for once we might get that world champion vs world champion fight in Hamilton vs Vettel. That’d be a great fight to follow for the neutrals, me included as I’m not a fan of either man these days (one because of how he’s been acting lately, the other because he joined THE enemy).

 

The other thing I’m looking forward to seeing is how well Bottas does in a top car for once. He’s now got the golden opportunity in the best car on the grid, but can he keep up with Hamilton? We know he’s got the talent, now it’s his time to prove it.Surely he’ll get his first win this season and when he does, that fight will become even closer.

 

I will say I like the look of the cars. Longer rear wings, bigger rear tyres….back to the older times eh? I’m not bothered by the shark fins at all. Also we got some really good looking liveries on track. The Toro Rosso car is still my favourite but the new pink car for Force India sure comes a close second and the third favourite….an ORANGE McLaren! Yes, they’re back to the traditional orange colours. I do like the slightly updated Sauber look too. Can’t wait for the race in Melbourne to start in almost an hour’s time!

2015 Formula One Japanese Grand Prix – Suzuka, Easily the Best!

I had been planning to visit my brother who is now studying in Japan and of course, the timing of it was just perfect for me to kill two birds with one stone. I get to visit my brother and at the same time I finally get to visit the amazing Suzuka Circuit. Of course, Suzuka is no where close to Tokyo so I got to visit a few more parts of Japan for my first visit to the country. I spent the first few days just exploring Tokyo and what makes that city great. Really colourful place and easy to get around thanks to the trains. I got to ride on the bullet train too (the Shinkansen), after all it’s the fastest way from Tokyo to Nagoya, the biggest city closest to Suzuka. And I have to say, I quite liked Nagoya too, really interesting place especially the place I was staying at.

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Friday

After my usual McDonald’s pancakes breakfast (they’re really good there), it’s off to Suzuka. It didn’t take me long to figure out how to get there using their subways. I even had it written on my phone in case I forgot:

Sake to Nagoya -> Higashiyama Line

Nagoya to Kawarada -> Kansai Main Line

Kawarada to Suzuka Circuit Inou -> Isle Railway Line

All sorted, reached the Nagoya station and I find out there’s an express train from there going straight to Suzuka Circuit. Guess I didn’t need to do all my researching after all. And of all the places, I bumped into my friend Mark from New Zealand standing in the train. What are the odds of meeting someone at a place like that? It took about an hour to get to the circuit and we’re not done there. Turns out there’s another 20 minutes walk from the station to the circuit itself. Good exercise eh? And guess what? Suzuka has a lot of elevation so you don’t need a mountain for a good exercise, just go to the Suzuka Circuit, that place will give you a good workout already and we’re not even talking about the drivers and their cars.

We made it in time for the first practice session at 10am and yes, it was drizzling. But I found out that for Fridays, seating is free ANYWHERE (except the main grandstand of course). So now the big question, where do I watch the action from? I decided to start the day off at the C Grandstand, which gives a good view of the first two corners and the run up to the S curves and the first two bits of it. Not a bad place to watch these cars go around but just one problem…there weren’t many cars going around because of the rain. Still, at least there was one car going around the circuit most of the time so I can’t complain. And yup, I sat in the rain taking pictures of these guys. I mean that’s what the locals have been used to doing, so I might as well do it too.

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But as there wasn’t much going on, I thought I’d walk around and check out the rest of the stands around the S curves. I really liked the view from the D1, D2 and E2 grandstands, mainly D2 as the cars were close by. And the best part about Suzuka I noticed right away, there is a lot of good spots to watch the action. And for those of us who like to take photos of these racing cars, there weren’t many catch fences in the way too, so that’s double the bonus to enjoy a day out at Suzuka watching these F1 cars.

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As we had time to kill after the first practice session, I decided to check out the F1 Village area to see what’s happening at the main stage and just to see what’s up. Lots of stuff to get, especially McLaren Honda, I don’t need to say why. There were a number of cars on show, 5 classic cars that would have demo runs during the weekend, one of them being the MP4-6 that won the 1991 Japanese Grand Prix with the same guy who won it driving the car, Gerhard Berger. The last two McLaren F1 cars were also on show. We showed up at the right time too as Fernando Alonso showed up to speak to the fans for a bit.

I didn’t walk around much for the second practice session. I started out at the Q1 Grandstand, sitting at the very last row just so I can get the best view possible and it sure was. You could see Turns 1, 2, 5, 7, 16, 17 and 18. One of the best spots around Suzuka for sure. You’ll never know where to look with the cars going by either side of the circuit which I didn’t mind, beats having just a two second view of the car like what I had at the Bay Grandstand most of the time in Singapore the week before.

I stuck around at that seat for about an hour, taking a lot of pictures too and for once a lot of good ones as well. And it was the place to be to see drivers making mistakes. Kimi Raikkonen, Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo all ran off at the chicane. I spent the last 30 minutes hiding in those entrance tents for the R and S Grandstands because it started to rain again and I wanted to see what the view was like there, which is alright but not as good as Q.

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I had to get some stuff while I was there so I got myself the two versions of the 2015 McLaren Honda F1 diecast cars. Time to walk back and me being a silly newbie, I followed the crowd exiting out of the amusement park (and with Suzuka F1 tickets, you would get unlimited rides there for a few days, which I never got to use). Turns out that was the wrong exit and I got to the station 40 minutes later. If you’re wondering, the easiest way to get in and out of the circuit is the gate near the first corner.

Saturday

I took it a bit easy for Saturday and went to the circuit a bit later than I would…turns out it was a bit late, we showed up just as the third practice session started. Because I don’t speak Japanese, I assumed a few parts of the circuit had a free viewing areas but it turned out to be a photographer area. And I’m not talking about the professional guys but people like you and me. Now I like Suzuka even more! They’ve got a few areas around the circuit for those with the photographer pass. And from what I see, they’ve got some good views too. I do wonder if people like myself who aren’t from Japan are allowed to get it. Would be nice if a few other circuits have a photographer area too, I do enjoy taking photos of these F1 cars too together with just watching them zooming past me.

So we wasted 30 minutes walking around but it wasn’t a total waste. While walking around Turn 7, I noticed a small little area with a number of flowers on it. Turns out it was the tribute area for the late Jules Bianchi who tragically had his fatal accident at that corner in last year’s race. I did my own little moment of silence to remember Jules, he was a great driver. Taken far too early, he would have been a future world champion, he was that talented.

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I ended up watching the last half of FP3 at Turn 6, which wasn’t a bad place to see those cars. That and also there was a staircase nearby so why the heck not, just watch there. And there was a superscreen close by and I wanted to see how everyone was doing timewise. Thankfully this time the weather was perfect so I didn’t need to use my raincoast or my umbrella, which I forgot to bring the day before because I thought we were not allowed to bring it here. I mean they said no umbrellas allowed on the website so did I miss something?

For qualifying we watched it at our seats at I Grandstand which gave a great view of the Hairpin Curve (Turn 11), or as I like to call it, the Kobabashi curve because Kamui Kobayashi just loved to overtake and bash people at that spot and he made it work 9 out of 10 times, Turn 10 and the back straight before 130R (Turn 15). On the way there, I stopped at 130R to check out the classic cars on their demo runs and yeah, that 130R sure is a special corner. And the best part? It was a free viewing zone so that was a wasted chance for me to see those cars go flat out at 130R for FP3. Oh well, another time I guess?

The seats we had turned out to be a really good one. We saw a number of guys locking their brakes up before or during their qualifying runs. But I got my money’s worth later on when Max Verstappen stopped his Toro Rosso car right in front of us, giving me tons of great pictures so thank you Max for that (I got a picture with him too in Singapore the week before, nice guy). And to think I told my brother that Verstappen will give us a show with his overtakes there, well he did but a different kind of show.

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And then came Qualifying 3. Those of you who saw that session knew what happened. THAT crash. Daniil Kvyat had that massive shunt at Turn 10, he lost control of his car and he hit the barriers quite hard, flipping his car too. And guess where I was? Yup, right opposite where he hit the barriers. I noticed right away a few sparks were coming out before he crashed so I thought something broke. And then the big crash.

That was easily the biggest accident I’ve seen with my own eyes and I’m so glad for Daniil that he got out of his car unaided too! The whole left side of that car was gone, I’ve never seen a race car that badly smashed up before and to think Daniil escaped without any injury is quite amazing, it just shows how safe these cars really are. It’s still a dangerous sport as we know with Bianchi’s and Justin Wilson’s accident recently.

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The crash meant no-one could improve their lap-times and pole position went to….Nico Rosberg? Yup! The king of pole position this year had finally been beaten by his team-mate. And I did see Lewis Hamilton making that mistake at Turn 11 which did end up costing him that pole position. Bottas qualified 3rd for Williams so some hopes for them to challenge for the podium spot over the Ferrari guys. Now back to Nagoya and as if the 20 minute walk back from the gate to the station wasn’t bad enough, it turns out it was another 20 minutes from my seat just to get to the gate! More exercise then.

This video has 21,000+ views already? What the heck…

Sunday

It’s race day! The 27th time Suzuka was hosting the Japanese Grand Prix and it’s the 27th of September. Did I mention 27 is my number? Nico Hulkenberg drives the 27 car and I’m a huge fans of his so more 27 there. I missed the support series so that was a shame but with the long travelling, I was ok with that. We got to see David Coulthard at the fan stage speaking to the fans and me being a fan, I had to stop for a while to hear him. Oh did I mention, I raced with good ol’ DC once? He personifies the term gentleman, you’ll never meet anyone friendlier than him (maybe with the exception of Hulkenberg and Ricciardo).

We got in time to see the F1 driver’s parade and thank god they did the parade with those classic cars individually and not the whole “everyone together in one shitbox” that the European races usually do and now Malaysia and Singapore were doing it too. At least Japan is doing it right. I saw the parade opposite from my seat just after Turn 9 and it turns out that was another good spot to watch the action. Because you don’t just get to see the cars go one way but both ways. Yes I’m talking about that section where the track crosses each other. If I do get to go to Suzuka again, I’ll surely catch a session from that area.

Almost time for the race and I have to say, it was nice to see a race where the majority are locals. The same cannot be said about Malaysia and Singapore where I’d say it’s about 50/50. Even in Melbourne, there were a number of foreigners but at Suzuka, not that many. So in a sea of Japanese people, the people seating next to me were from Toronto, Ontario, Canada! What are the odds? A bunch of Canadian people there and me who loves Canada. So yeah we spoke about Canada for a bit. As yes, Montreal is the #1 on my wishlist of races I’ve never been to that I really want to go.

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Speaking of the fans, many of you may have seen from the TV about the crazy stuff the people will bring and I can tell, these Japanese fans are really creative when it comes to these stuff. I saw so many hats with cars on it, the famous DRS hat that actually works, a bunch of Samurais in Ferrari colours and even a guy wearing Kimi Raikkonen’s overalls and the helmet too! These guys are really funny. Same for the marshals. They actually put on a show during the track inspection and gave the SC a good scare. They know how to put on a good show don’t they? And did I mention how polite the Japanese people are? That was a nice change for once. Not many people are polite from where I’m from.

The area at the I Grandstand was a good spot to see some close racing, but not as many overtakes as I expected. Most of them came from Daniel Ricciardo who had a puncture early on, so damn that. Good spot to take pictures of more than one cars and also for just one car as the view was quite clear. I think it was the closest I was to the cars of any of the areas I’ve watched F1 cars at any of the four circuits I’ve been to. If you’re thinking about going to Suzuka, that’s one place I can strongly suggest watching the action from.

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Lewis Hamilton won the race and it was a quick race, about 90 minutes and no safety cars which was alright with me. I had a bullet train to catch so I was more than happy with a quick race. I thought it was a good one, I got to see some good racing from where I was. Before Suzuka, I’ve always said Sonoma was the best circuit I’ve been to because it was a good circuit to drive on and also a good circuit to watch with so many great spots around the circuit. I can easily say now, Suzuka is the best circuit I’ve been to.

Many consider it the best circuit in F1 and from a fan’s point of view, I can say the same. So many great spots to watch the cars around here and well, the track is brilliant. And from wherever you are, most of the time, you’ll get a great view of these cars and at least more than one view of it. I can’t wait to get back there, really enjoyed my time there. Quite fitting that my 10th Formula One race live was at this legendary circuit. Really liked it there, I don’t know if I can say if that was the most fun I had at an F1 event but it might have been.

Races like the ones in Suzuka and Albert Park are the ones I enjoy the most, it’s just all about racing here. No concert or whatever like in Singapore, as cool as it maybe to see some superstars from that area but I am and will always be a motorsports fan. My main reason for going to these races are to see those drivers are cars in action, nothing else. Nothing beats that for me. This won’t be my last visit to Suzuka, that is for certain.

2015 Formula One Singapore Grand Prix – Not a fan of Grandstand Seats

Wednesday

Usually the racing weekend starts on Friday and on some occasions, Thursday for this one, my racing fix started on Wednesday when I heard that Max Verstappen and Jenson Button would both be making appearances, both competing in friendly simulator races with some lucky fans. Unfortunately, the JB one was a private event. I did try my luck by being at the Conrad Hotel, and I saw JB twice walking around the 2nd floor but he never did show up on the first floor so I left for Verstappen’s event in Kallang.

The kid actually showed up driving a Twizy into the Kallang Wave mall! That was pretty funny, especially since he’s not even of legal driving age here in Singapore. He helped to launch a new Renault Clio and finished 3rd in that race and then there was a meet and greet session with him, so that was nice of them to make it happen. I did get to meet him, get his autograph and get a picture with him. Quiet guy but sure was friendly. He’ll be a mega star in the years to come, just wait and see.

Thursday

I was lucky enough to win not one but two pair of passes to the pit-lane experience thing. One was though my tickets, the other from Singapore GP’s website running a separate contest. During that day I also got a gift bag from Singapore Airlines for posting stuff about the grand prix using their hastag so that was nice of them.

But before the pit-lane walk, Daniel Ricciardo was showing up at Paragon and me being a big fan of the guy, I had to be there. Big thanks to my friend Claire for letting me know about it. I got to ask Daniel a question, which was about UFC of all things, and a question he said “wow that’s a good one, never heard that one before”. I asked him if he was allowed one fight, who would it be? His answer? Initially it was whoever he disliked the most before deciding on Conor McGregor just for the laughs. I’d really like to see those two just laugh at each other though, both funny guys in their own sports. I got a Red Bull 2015 team shirt free for that, and it usually cost $120! I got my picture with Daniel too so finally, it happened.

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Oh by the way, Singapore security guards are the worst. I was being pushed around by some guy behind me for some reason and instead of helping me out, this stupid bastard of a security punched me in the stomach not once but twice! What was that for? I wasn’t the one doing the pushing you idiot. First of all, those idiotic people who were pushing, don’t blame me for being at the front of the line, how about showing up early to get your picture and not push people around you useless fuck. And that security guard, the next time I see your stupid bald head, I’ll fucking punch you in the stomach for no reason. Let’s see how you like it, you no good piece of shit. Not the first time I’ve see the Singapore security guards at these big events being the worst bunch of idiots I’ve ever seen. Can we get proper guards here?

The pit-lane walk was cool as always. We actually got to see the likes of Grosjean, Maldonado, Stevens, Rossi, Ericsson and Nasr all walking out on track. I might have been the only one who actually recognised Alex Rossi so I called him out, me being a fan of his and all that, and he waved back. I do feel a bit bad because he was trying to study the track since it was his debut F1 race after all, sorry about that Alex!

It wasn’t my first time in the pit-lane walk but watching these guys practice their pit-stop just never gets old. The sound of the drills and the timing of these guys to get the tyres out and in, it’s just amazing that we get to see them do it for a while. And yes, I got to tape some of it during the walk. The cars looked great up close as the always do and it was cool to see a few different stuff like the new Sauber nose, Lotus’ new sponsors and of course, Rossi’s Manor with the 53 car in tribute to Herbie.

Friday

The first day of action at the Marina Bay and I decided to have some fun being the autograph hunter along with my friend who made his way from Melbourne to be here for the first time. I helped him get a picture with Ricciardo and he helped me get a picture with….Ted Kravitz haha! To be fair, most of the guys, I saw, I already have a picture with them.

I do wonder though, is it a Ferrari thing to refuse autographs or photographs from fans? Not only did Vettel, Raikkonen and former driver Alonso did that, even their new boss Maurizio Arrivabene stopped signing stuff after 2 people asked him. Geez, not so friendly are they? Yet so many people love them, I just don’t get it. At least you can count on guys like Ricciardo, Hulkenberg, Rosberg and Grosjean of those who are more well known to give you a photo or an autograph. The only guys I didn’t see were Hamilton, Button and Massa, the same three I didn’t see at all last year the two times I was waiting at the entrance. Once again, I might have been the only person to ask Alex Rossi for an autograph. He’ll be more recognized sooner rather than later.

I missed the first three support series practices so it was straight to the first F1 practice and I went to a part of the circuit I’ve not been to before, Turn 3. Turns out it was a brilliant place to watch these cars and get some pictures. You get to see the cars either entering Turn 1, then 2 and around 3 and continue off or out of the pits and into Turn 2. I liked that area so much I spent the entire free practice 1 session just at that Turn 3 area.

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Next up was the Porsche Carrera Cup Asia qualifying session and I watched that from my seat at the Pit Grandstand for that day. I bought the three-day combination to see how the grandstand seats were like for once and already I didn’t like it. The view was ok but trying to get pictures of these cars, that wasn’t ok. After that I went to see Singaporean pop group The Sam Willows at the Village Stage. I’ve heard a lot about them and having seen and heard them in action, those guys and gals are really good. Made a fan out of me that day.

Back to the F1 action and I had always planned to watch the final 30 minutes at the Pit Grandstand. That turned into the final 10 minutes because I found a few better places elsewhere on parts of the track I’ve been to before such as Turns 21, which is always a good spot for photos, Turns 22 and 23, with a number of different viewing angles for all of them, and most of them all good. The view from the pit grandstand wasn’t that great if I’m honest. At least in Sepang, you could see the teams working on the cars. You can’t see anything here. The only reason to get a seat there would be for Sunday for the grid, the race start and the podium, that’s it. Apart from that, I wouldn’t watch the race from there. I mean, I’ve already been through that in Albert Park last year but the atmosphere more than made up for my poor view there.

Saturday

My ticket for the day was the Padang Grandstand so I was limited to just Zone 4. For the first action of the day, I saw the PCCA race 1 from my seat. This seat was a bit better than the Pit Grandstand and the Bay Grandstand (which I got for Sunday) so if I had to take a grandstand seat, I’d rather get it here and for one reason, for which I’ll mention later. The PCCA race was good as it usually was but the result was a bit frustrating for me. Oh well, shit happens for the guys I was cheering on.

For free practice 3, I decided to see what Turn 11/12 was like. My Aussie friend told me he had a good view from there from FP2 so why not check it out for myself and turns out he was right, it was a pretty good spot. The viewing platform had switch to the other side of the turn due to the changes made and to me, it didn’t just make the racing better, it made the viewing of the racing even better. Especially the view from Turn 12, you got to see the cars head on, turn into Turn 11, some of them even sliding out of that corner, drive straight at your view and then head to Turn 12 and the left side of Anderson Bridge, another change for this season. I spent 30 minutes watching from Turn 12 and the rest at Turn 11 to see how it was like from that angle. I might have found a new favourite spot at that Turn 12 viewing area for photos.

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There was a 2 hour break between sessions and nothing was happening so I decided to look around the F1 village, see what’s on show, especially the Singapore Airlines booth and just see what’s on offer. I went back to Padang Stage for the qualifying session and the best part about watching the action there, especially from where I was at, you could see the sparks coming out of the cars! I always liked it as it looks like pictures and videos I’ve seen from the older eras of F1. The cars look great already under the lights, the sparks just add to the spectacle for me.

It was probably the best qualifying session of the year, since none of the Mercedes were up for the challenge to get pole position. It was pretty nice to see Ferrari and Red Bull fight it out for the top spot for once. I was bit bummed that Daniel just missed getting the pole but oh well, still a front-row spot for him. Sebastian Vettel was his usual self in Singapore, just kicking ass. After that was the Maroon 5 concert. I’ve seen them once so I didn’t stick around for that much this time. Way too many people there, took me 10 minutes just to get out of there.

Sunday

Race-day Sunday for the most part of the day, I was at my seat at the Bay Grandstand and I didn’t like the view one bit there. I thought I’d get to see more of the car going under by picking my seat at the Dark Green section, turns out it was still not enough. I couldn’t see much of the PCCA cars, the TCR Series cars or the F1 cars through those corners so that’s my mistake for picking that spot. I even walked to Turn 7 thinking, maybe I’ll just watch the race from there but as I was carrying two bags, not the option for that day. I will probably watch the race from Turn 7 next year, the view there is pretty good especially since that’s the main overtaking spot on the circuit.

I did at least get to see some off track action in both TCR and PCCA races, guys went off at Turn 18 which is always a tricky spot on track, I’ve been caught out there myself a few times on my games. I saw the F1 driver parade at Turn 7 and it was really disappointing to see them on the European style parade track mover altogether and not in separate historic cars, I always preferred that. The race was alright. It got better after the first safety car period. I’m still trying to figure out why the guy walked on track to cause the second safety car. I did get to see that crazy good overtaking move by Verstappen on Maldonado at Turn 18 happen right in front of me.

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Sebastian Vettel dominated the race as usual but hey, Daniel Ricciardo finished 2nd so I’m good with that. I didn’t stick around for the Bon Jovi gig. First of all, I’m here because it’s the Singapore Grand Prix so yeah, here for the racing and secondly I had a flight to catch. It was another good racing weekend in Singapore around the streets of Marina Bay. One thing this Singapore GP weekend did teach me…I’ll never get a grandstand seat here again. It’s not worth the price. I’ll stick to my brilliant walkabout tickets. I enjoyed my weekend…apart from sitting at those grandstands.

Now I need to head back to sleep. I’ve got a long day ahead of me. Oh yeah, I’m in Nagoya, Japan as we speak. Not too far away from a certain Suzuka Circuit. I wonder what’s going on there this weekend…

Rest In Peace Justin Wilson (1978 – 2015)

When I was writing my little tribute to the late Jules Bianchi after he had passed away from his injuries sustained at the 2014 Japanese Grand Prix a little over six weeks ago, I told myself that I hope it’s the last time in a long while that I would have this sick feeling in my stomach of realizing that a great racing driver and a great person has left. Unfortunately, motorsports has and will always be a dangerous sport and another great driver and a great person has been taken away from us. And it’s another guy who I think very highly of and that of course is the late Justin Wilson. Just saying that feels weird for me.

I’m still in shock as to what’s happened. For those who don’t know, I’m a huge fan of IndyCar racing and have followed the series since 2005 very closely. I don’t think I’ve missed one race since that day, be it on the TV, a live stream on the internet or delayed on YouTube. I was watching the Pocono race on Monday morning because I couldn’t stay up enough late Sunday night for the race live. It was a pretty good race, one of the better oval races I’ve seen. 6 or 7 cars wide racing? It was brilliant. Then came 21 laps to go when race leader Sage Karam crashed. Parts of his car was flying and his nosecone hit Justin Wilson’s helmet and he went straight into the crash barriers. At this point, I had no idea that he was in a coma but I knew something wasn’t right as he wasn’t moving at all. And then the news came a day later that Justin Wilson had passed away. Life just isn’t fair sometimes. He was just a brilliant driver who finally had a drive with one of the top teams, albeit a part-time deal, in IndyCar and then this happens. I feel horrible for his family and friends, I can’t imagine what they’re going through right now, especially his two young daughters. I can only hope for the best for them at this difficult time.

I first heard of Justin when he won the F3000 championship that year (which is now GP2), beating the likes of Mark Webber and Sebastien Bourdais to the championship. Those two happen to be two of the very best around so it shows the quality JW had. It was always tough for him to fit in those cars being a very tall guy but he finally had his chance in Formula One with Minardi in 2003 and then moving to Jaguar for the second part of the year, scoring one point in Indianapolis. He never really had a proper shot to prove himself in Formula One.

He did do just that in ChampCars and more so in IndyCar. In the first year of the unification, he got a win at Detriot for Newman-Haas Racing. But the team ran into trouble financially so he joined the underdog minnows, Dale Coyne Racing. That’s when he proved how bloody good he was. He gave that little team their first ever win in 25 years at Watkins Glen. After a stint with Dreyer & Reinbold Racing, he came back and got them another win in Texas. And on an oval too.

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Justin Wilson in Sonoma 2012. Picture taken by me.

I was really pissed when I heard Justin didn’t have a full-time drive in IndyCar for this season. I remember asking, why isn’t someone as talented as him and Ryan Briscoe not have full-time drivers in a top motorsports series? Sadly it’s all about the money now and guys with the talent can’t just rely on that which is very very wrong. At least both of them got a part-time racing deal and have proven themselves once again why talent > money. And just before that Pocono race, Justin scored a 2nd place finish at the last race in Mid-Ohio! For a part-time driver, that is quite brilliant. He was even leading that Pocono race right off the start and for bits of it. Andretti had been doing better ever since he showed up with two wins for Ryan Hunter-Reay. I was really hoping this would give him a full-time ride with Andretti but sadly that won’t happen.

I’ve had the privilege to watch Justin race twice, both times at Sonoma in 2012 and 2014. And once again he was his impressive self, finishing inside the top 11 for the little team Dale Coyne Racing. In between those races in 2013, he actually finished on the podium in 2nd place in Sonoma. It was just exactly a year ago on this date (24 august US timing) that I last saw Justin Wilson in action at Sonoma. He stopped on track at the end of the race and gave me one of my best pictures I’ve taken of any racing car. He had also walked past me before the start of the race, which was the closest I’ve got to meeting an IndyCar driver at any point. But as he was in the zone, I did not want to disturb him. Even if I had done so, I knew he’d be ok with a quick picture, that’s the kind of guy he was. And to think that exactly one year later, he would succumb to his injuries from Pocono. Life is too short sometimes and very unfair. It always seems as if the best people are taken way too soon. I said that about Dan Wheldon and Jules Bianchi and the same can be said for Justin Wilson.

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Justin Wilson in Sonoma 2014. Picture taken by me.

I will always have the biggest of respects for these racing drivers. They are true heroes, risking their lives to achieve success in motorsports be it to win a race or just to finish it. No-one can match these guys and gals in my view. These guys accept the danger and get on with their racing jobs, I will always have respect for every and any racing driver for that, be it someone who I’m a fan or even if it’s someone I don’t really like, I have nothing but respect for all of them. Especially the guys who drive in IndyCars, which some may say is the most dangerous of the lot because of the speeds they do especially on the ovals. These guys are true heroes to me. So to lose another one is quite hard to accept.

JW is easily one of the best drivers I’ve seen in an IndyCar. It’s a shame that he never got the opportunity in a full-time top team ride he fully deserved. If he had one, I am sure he would have been an IndyCar champion. I’ve heard a lot of stories about how he was a great person and having seen him in the flesh in Sonoma and how friendly he was to his crew and the people around him, I can attest to that. Justin, you were a great driver and an ever better person. Thanks for the memories, especially that win in Watkins Glen in 2009, Texas in 2012 and much more from your time in IndyCar and Formula One. Godspeed JW, you will be missed.

Rest in peace Justin Wilson.

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Singapore Airlines Light Up The Night Carnival – My story

It’s less than a month away but yes, the 2015 F1 Singapore Grand Prix is coming soon and me being a racing fanatic, I cannot wait for that weekend in late September. And thanks to Singapore Airlines, the title sponsors for the Singapore Grand Prix, we got a bit of a taste of the racing fever. Well not me since I always have it but for everyone else to get themselves ready and get into the racing festival mood.

This event was done in a way to promote the upcoming race but also it was a great way to get everyone into the racing spirit. There was a lot of stuff to see and do these past two days (22nd and 23rd August 2015). Of course I had to check it out! Me personally, it looks to me that Singapore Airlines has done a lot to get hte fans involved since taking over the sponsor title from Singtel and I couldn’t be any happier that they’re the ones doing this. They are probably one of, if not the, most well known Singaporean brands around anyways!

Day 1 – Saturday

The first thing I tried to do was get in on the action with the go-karts but then I remembered I was wearing my slippers and not a shoe. To drive these go-karts, your feet had to be fully covered. Shows you how little go-karting I’ve done to forget that bit of information I probably should have known. So what’s the next best thing? Try out the racing simulator then.

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It’s not my first time trying a racing simulator for F1 2015 game this month. Funan mall has two simulators for anyone to try going on, one of which is the same as this one at the F1 Pit Building, the other was even more expensive but obviously that meant it was better. Still, the Logitech G29 Driving Force is pretty good itself and I just found out it’s about $600. I might need to start saving then. We only had one lap around the Marina Bay Street Circuit on the simulator and it had to be done in 3 minutes. I did at least get to finish my lap, 1m51s was the time. Not the best but it was my first and only go with that simulator so it’s not so bad I guess.

There’s also an area to try your hand at being a pit member and changing an F1 tyre. For whatever reason, I didn’t try that one out on both days, just happened to skip my mind. There was also a paper plane challenge but I can never make a good one so that’s not for me. There was also an SIA louge area of sorts next to the racing simulator and on display was a model of the Airbus A380 and also seats from that plane, Economy Class, Business Class and First Class. I never got to sit on the first class seat, I mean everyone wants to try it right? I don’t have the money to fly around in first class seat myself.

There were a number of supercars on show and there was one that caught my eye and it was the first one I saw. I have seen pictures of that particular car before but never live in living colour. And it was right there in front of me making it’s way back to the garage to be on display for all to see. It’s the Koenigsegg Agera 5. It’s not just a supercar, it’s a hypercar! And guess how much it costs?

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$5.3 million smackers! Yes, 5.3 million dollars. I can only dream of what 5.3 million dollars is like. I could do a lot with that kind of money and I wouldn’t even consider buying that car even if I had the money. I would if I had 10 million though. It was also the only one of it’s kind in Singapore. To the lady who owns it….can you let me have a test drive sometime in the future? 😛

There was also a whole host of supercars ranging from Ferraris, McLarens, Lamborghinis, Porsches, Audis and Maseratis. It was probably the most expensive parking lot Singapore had ever seen, and the best looking one for sure as well! And yes, I had more McLaren pictures than I do for Ferrari, I just couldn’t help myself! I did snap one pretty cool picture of a number of cars at the front of the pack. It might be one of my best pictures I’ve ever taken:

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Five different manufactures represented at the front too. McLaren, Ferrari, Lamborghini, Porsche and Maserati from left to right. The cars were in a formation to spell out “SIA”, the front pack making up the “S” formation. The only people who probably had a view of the SIA formation are the one who were on the Singapore Flyer at the time or the tall buildings around the area.

There was also a few stunt cars not just on display but putting a really good stunt show, from close calls of a J parking to synchronized donuts and also the best trick I’ve seen, the car going around while the drivers were out of it! No-one was driving that damn car! I’ve not seen that one done before so kudos to those guys for that. A few TCR cars were on display as well as they’ll be making their debut at the Singapore Grand Prix this year. I’ve already seen two great races from them in Sepand (the first two races ever in this new TCR series) and I hope their races will be great in Singapore too.

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The second floor of the F1 pit building was open with more activies as well. I had never been on the second floor so that was nice to see what the paddock club suites looked like….well not quite as it was empty for now but still, the view from there was pretty good. No wonder people pay good money for those tickets, I’d love to watch the action from there too. Here’s what the view is like:

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The main reason for me going to the 2nd floor was to see the wax figures of Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel, which was borrowed from the Madam Tussad museum in Sentosa. I’ve always wanted to go to one of those museums just to see what it’s like. Also on display next to them was the F1 2014 Singapore Grand Prix winner’s trophy. Of course I had to get a picture of that. And a picture with the SIA girls. Combine them both and it’s a better pic. So good, I took another one the next day, this time with two SIA girls. Let’s be honest, they are the prettiest air stewardess of them all. No other airlines can match them…not that I’ve seen one yet.

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Day 2 – Sunday

I had planned to go just on the Saturday but I was back on Sunday for one main reason, have a go at driving the go-karts from the KF1 guys. They’ve got a brilliant new kart circuit in Kranji that was designed by Herman Tilke. Yes, that same guy who designed the Sepang, Shanghai, Istanbul circuits to name a few. I’ll pay them a visit one of these days. Luckily for me I was one of the first to show up so I didn’t have to wait 40 minutes like most people did the day before.

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You had to pay $5 to have a 10 minute session on track and since it was for charity, I’m all good with that. It took me a while to know what I could do and not do with the car and just as I thought I’d figured out the track, the session was finished just like that. Only four laps for me. Only did one overtake too. I ended that session 4th quickest, 2.6 seconds off the pace with my best time of 57.930s. I was just one tenths away from being 3rd quickest. I wasn’t that statisfied with my lap….so I went back in line for another go!

This time I did have to wait for a bit to run on track. Helmets on back to the track for me. This time I didn’t wait to get some action, I was overtaking guys right from the off. I was full throttle all the way apart from the final corner, which I only figured out that you didn’t really need to use the brakes there as well on my final lap. This time I did get held up from a few slower drivers which probably cost me a chance to get a really good lap. I even accidentally spun one guy around. He was holding me up but I didn’t mean to hit him. Honest mistake my friend!

I ended that session 3rd quickest, this time I was only 0.7s away from the top spot. I improved my time by 3 seconds, my fastest time was 54.887s. It was fun racing those go-kart. I mean, it’s always fun racing go-karts. I wish I could do it more often. It was pretty cool to race on an actual F1 circuit, albeit just on the front straight. My silly little dream did come true. The best part of the two sessions was that my two go-karts had my two favourite numbers on it, #2 and #7. I couldn’t have asked for any better. Big thanks to Singapore Airlines, KF1 Karting and Singapore Grand Prix for putting on this event. Hopefully there’ll be another next year. Bring on the F1 2015 Singapore Grand Prix!

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Rest In Peace Jules Bianchi (1989 – 2015)

Today (technically yesterday for me) was the day the racing family said it’s last goodbye to someone who should have been a bright star in not just motorsports but in Formula One altogether. We got the news we feared last Friday when Jules Bianchi passed away, nine months after his fatal accident in Suzuka during the 2014 F1 Japanese Grand Prix. A great F1 talent gone far too soon.

I had first heard of Jules in 2009 during his days in F3 Euro, winning that championship and competing against the likes of Valtteri Bottas and Christian Vietoris (now in DTM). I only got to see a few of his races during that year but I could tell he had the talent. It was also during that year he joined the Ferrari youth academy so you knew he really did have the talent if a team like Ferrari signs him up. He spent the next two years in GP2 and even though he didn’t win it, he came 3rd both times so clearly he was a star in the making. And the guys who beat him? Pastor Maldonaldo (F1 winner), Sergio Perez (4-time F1 podium finisher), Romain Grosjean (9-time F1 podium finisher) and Luca Filippi (IndyCar podium finisher). That’s an impressive list of drivers there.

I got to see him in action a bit more in 2012 with Formula Renault 3.5 (since GP2 wasn’t aired in Singapore at that point) and he also had a few test sessions with Force India F1 team. The first time I saw him was at a Force India roadshow on the Friday of the Singapore Grand Prix. I knew a Force India test driver was showing up but I didn’t know who. It was either Conor Daly or Jules Bianchi but both were great so I would have been happy to meet either one. Unfortunately, I showed up a bit late and just missed the line to get a picture with Jules. I do regret missing that chance very much now. And I was pretty damn sure I was one of the only few who actually knew who he was at that time while some just wanted to take a picture with an F1 driver.

He did well with his test deal for Force India and I was quite bummed when I heard Force India went with Adrian Sutil and not Bianchi for the 2013 season, I knew they were making a big mistake. At least Jules did get his chance but it was with the minnows Marussia. Even then, he was the star of the “back of the field” battle, more often than not he would beat his direct competition (his team-mate and the Caterham guys). If anyone could get a point for those back-maker teams, surely it had to be him.

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Jules Bianchi in Singapore 2013. Picture taken by me.

The next time I saw him was during the autograph session during the 2014 F1 Australian Grand Prix. Even though I didn’t get an autograph from him because I was standing at the other side, I could tell he was a good guy. At one point he saw a kid trying to get a picture with him, picked him up to the stage and got him that picture with him. What a nice lad! He was one of the few to stay on for a little while longer to sign more autographs for us fans waiting at the front of the stage, some of the drivers just head off after the actual thing and ignore those of us not in line but at the front of the stage hoping to get their autographs.

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Jules Bianchi in Melbourne 2014. Picture taken by me.

That 2014 year was a great one for him. He did end up scoring his and Marussia’s first ever points (and also the first of the new teams from 2010 to score a point) and of course it had to be in Monaco where just about anything can happen there. This underdog had his big day there and to think his hometown of Nice was close to Monaco, that was a brilliant home race for him. It was an impressive drive to get that Marussia into 9th, and that’s after a penalty was given too!

The next time I saw him was at the 2014 F1 Singapore Grand Prix and I saw him entering the circuit with Kimi Raikkonen and some of the Ferrari crew. With the word that Fernando Alonso was set to leave Ferrari, it got me thinking…is Jules Bianchi the new Ferrari driver for 2015? I sent a picture of it and thought I’d have some fun with it “Bianchi with Ferrari crew, let’s start the rumors”! Little did I know that would be the last time I would see him in the flash.

Of course I’d see him again but this time in his car driving the wheels out of the Marussia as he always did. On Saturday I went up the Singapore Flyer to get some picture from up there and one of the pictures I got was the one I shared at the start of this entry (the feature image) and I have to say it’s one of the best picture I’ve ever taken of an F1 car because it showed how close these guys were on the limit, Jules almost touched the wall at that point. Taking that bit more and then some of what he could, finding for the perfect line. That’s racing. A great driver can find a bit more by testing the limits given to him and Jules was clearly one of those guys. He would finish the race 16th, just behind Marcus Ericsson in the Caterham. That Singapore Grand Prix would be the last time he would finish an F1 race in his short life.

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Jules Bianchi in Singapore 2014. Picture taken by me.

You all know the story of Japan a few weeks after that race. A typhoon was coming and instead of starting the race a bit early to avoid the rain, the race went as scheduled and the rain hit and i caused chaos. Jules was involved in a huge accident, suffering serious brain injuries and remained in a coma for the next 9 months until a few days ago when his fight ended. It’s a real damn shame that his life ended way too early.

Life just isn’t fair sometimes. I always thought he would be, not just the next Ferrari driver, but the next Ferrari F1 world champion. It was clear he had what it took to be a race winner at the the highest level of motorsports. A big loss to the racing family, a future champion gone too soon. My condolences to his family and friends. I know what it’s like to see someone suffer for far too long. Just be happy for him that he is in a better place and he doesn’t have to suffer anymore.

Jules, you were a great guy and a brilliant racer. You will be missed by all in the racing family. Godspeed Jules. May you enjoy your final journey and continue to race on, this time with the greats of our sports. Thanks for the memories of Monaco 2014 and many more.

Rest in peace Jules Bianchi.

RIP Jules

The time I asked Alonso about the Indy 500 on Twitter…

Something weird just happened yesterday. Or actually the last two days or so. Let’s start the story on good ol’ Twitter.

I happened to see a friend of mine posting a question to two-time Formula One world champion Fernando Alonso and I noticed he was going to do a Twitter Q&A bit, #askAlo, so I thought, hey why not? I should ask him something too being a big fan of the guy myself. But what? At that point, I was watching a video from another friend of mine who attended the 2015 IndyCar MAVTV 500 in Fontana (that was a brilliant race), and it hit me!

I had heard from the likes of Will Buxton from NBC asking Alonso and another F1 world champion Sebastian Vettel about possibly giving the Indianapolis 500 a try sometime in the future. Since I’m in Singapore, I can’t see their videos on the NBC Sports thing so I won’t know what was said. So might as well ask the man himself about one day racing at the Indy 500. We already know he wants to try the 24 hours of Le Mans (and he almost did race for Porsche this year), which 1/3 of the triple crown of motoracing (The 24 hours of Le Mans, the Monaco Grand Prix and the Indianapolis 500), so what about the Indy 500?

Alo 1

Now, I didn’t expect him to answer or if he’ll even read it so I just went on with things, not thinking much about it. I mean, he’s probably talked about it with the NBC guys so who knows? Guess what, Alonso did reply back!

Alo 2

Ok, I don’t know if that counts as a reply as he quoted my tweet. And here’s the funny part, I still don’t know how to do that! So this two time F1 world champion seems to be open to the idea of racing in the Indy 500 sometime in the near future, how about that? As he says, “it’s attractive for any racing driver” and ask anyone else, I’m sure they’ll say the same thing. Things got a bit more weird with that particular sentence later on. I guess we can start to imagine the likes of one of the best racers in the world, Fernando Alonso in an IndyCar around IMS. That would be pretty cool. It would be nice if it did happen in the future!

Now with him replying to me, obviously I’ll get quite a bit of notifications on Twitter. I thought I’d have some fun and share that pic of Facebook just to let everyone know that Alonso might think about giving Indy 500 a try and that this bugger here asked him that question haha! As a friend of mine said, “how did you like your 15 minutes of fame?”. Obviously it wasn’t but hey, still a cool moment when someone you’re a fan of mentions you. Now things get a bit crazy.

I wake up the next day, and the first thing I see on Facebook was a post from IndyCar, talking about Alonso and Vettel possibly giving the Indy 500 a try. I’m thinking to myself “what are the odds that happen to see his tweet to my question on that”. Surely not. Then I get a notification on Facebook, a friend telling me to read that article.

http://www.indycar.com/News/2015/06/6-29-Would-Alonso-or-Vettel-compete-in-Indy-500

Right at the end, I see that quote of Alonso’s and I see my name on it too. Holy crap, my name is on an article on the IndyCar webpage! Ok, it was actually my Twitter username but still, that’s me! And me being a huge fan of IndyCar, I’m going nuts about it! And then I find out ESPN has got an article about it too!

http://www.espn.co.uk/f1/story/_/id/13166610/fernando-alonso-not-ruling-future-indy-500-drive

Already the first sentence caught my eye. “Attractive for any driver”, where have I heard that from? Yup, this also mentioned that answer from Alonso and this time, along with two others. The bit where he spoke about Kimi Raikkonen was bloody good, my favourite bit from his whole Q&A bit. He did own Raikkonen after all and he owned him with that answer too haha.

It’s really weird to see my name on a Motorsports article on ESPN, IndyCar and also apparently a few Dutch sites too. I did say once that being a sports journalist would be a cool thing for someone like me, I’ve always wanted to travel around and watch these races (F1, IndyCar, Formula E, NASCAR or whatever) and maybe write on stuff about it or take photos from these races. I do like taking photos of these race cars, check out my Flickr page for pictures I’ve taken from all the races I’ve been to (https://www.flickr.com/photos/kashwinner/albums). Maybe I should have done that after all and who knows, maybe my name could appear on ESPN and IndyCar a bit more often haha! I can dream right? But hey, we might not have to dream about the likes of Alonso and Vettel in an IndyCar, that might actually happen sometime soon! How awesome would that be!

Enough of me and my 2 seconds of fame and seeing my name of motorsports article, even if it was a cool moment, how would those guys do in a race like the Indy 500? We’ve already see Nico Hulkenberg have a go at the Le Mans 24 hours and not just complete the whole race, he actually won the damn thing and he was the one driving the car to the finish line. Those LMP1 cars are probably more similar to the F1 cars so it wouldn’t be much of a change but the IndyCars, especially the oval configurations, that’s something different and might take these guys a while to get it. I mean, Juan Pablo Montoya did struggle for the first half of last season when he came back to IndyCar, look how he’s doing now. He’s leading the damn championship with a second Indy 500 win to his name!

I actually think Alonso and Vettel could fare quite well in an IndyCar. Let’s not forget the story of good ol’ Nigel Mansell. He won the F1 world championship in 1992 with Williams and brought his talents and his mustache over to America in 1993, joining the then CART series and won the 1993 CART IndyCar championship as well! He could have, and probably should have, won the Indy 500 at his first attempt if not for a bad re-start. Ok, Alonso and Vettel will probably stay in F1 and won’t get much running time on an oval for an IndyCar if they decide to go for it (and if the calendar allows them to do it) but who knows, those two are two of the very best in the world, so I’m sure they’ll cope with it fine after a few runs. Would be nice if either one of them gave it a try next year for the 100th Indianapolis 500.

And to end this bit, here’s one pic from this past March from the Malaysian Grand Prix of the man himself, Fernando Alonso, in his McLaren Honda car. If only that car was any good…

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2015 Formula One Malaysian Grand Prix – My Story

Friday

I actually started my Friday still in Singapore. Yup, got my flight to Malaysia in the early morning! Landed in Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) at about 8.30 and I quickly noticed some guys in either Red Bull or McLaren gears, they were obviously heading to the circuit so we followed them to the shuttle bus to get to the Sepang International Circuit. Here’s the funny bit. The Sepang circuit is just opposite side of the highway from KLIA but it takes bloody 20 minutes to get there. And you still have to switch buses to get to the ones that will bring you from the bus park to the entrance of the circuit itself! Lots of travelling already!

Finally got to the circuit and for Fridays in Sepang, it’s free admission to all and free seating in the main grandstand. My dad and I had tickets for the weekend but since it was free for Friday, my mum joined us to see what it was like for the first time. Now my entire family has since F1 cars live in action at least once haha, mission accomplished. Started the day with even more traveling. This time from the main entrance to the entrance of the main grandstand, stopped at one of the first few sections at the main grandstand to watch the first few minutes of the first practice session for F1 before moving on to the very end of the main grandstand.

Got some views of the seeing the F1 cars from inside their pit garages so that’s always a cool moment to see the drivers getting ready before hitting the track. I knew that after the first few laps, no-one would take to the circuit for at least 10 minutes so that was enough time for me to make my way to the end of the grandstand.

Daniel Ricciardo

At the very end of the two long grandstand there’s another viewing area called the Tower Grandstand and it’s one of the best places to not just watch the action but also to get pictures of the F1 cars. You can see Turns 5 to 9 and Turn 15 and the two straights from the top level of that grandstand, but you’ll need to walk around to see every bit of it but it sure it worth it!

The next time I’m going to Sepang, that’s my first destination, really good spot to watch these cars. Plus, it being Turn 15, some guys will lock their brakes up there so you might see some tyre smoking action haha! I didn’t want to spend much time there because I didn’t want to keep my folks waiting but I lost track of time haha! I was enjoying the view from there so much I didn’t take notice of the time flying past. If anyone wants to get some pictures of these F1 cars, Turn 15 is the spot for you! This is one of my favourite pictures from there and the best part, it’s not the only one I got from there!

Jenson Button

Yes, I got that picture, can you believe that? For the second session and every other session in between, I decided to park myself at the main grandstand. There’s two parts to it, the lower deck and the upper deck. I prefer watching from the top as you can see much more and instead of seeing potentially just one pit-stop practice from the lower deck, you might see at least five teams practicing their pit-stops from the upper deck!

And remember, it’s all free on Friday! Didn’t really get much pictures from there as I was a bit tired from all the travelling but still it was cool to be that close to see the teams doing their thing, pit-stop practices, working on the cars and all that stuff. After that it was back to the hotel to rest and wait for the next day’s action. The travelling back to KL Sentral was a pain! Thank god it got better on the weekends.

Saturday

As the first session started quite late I waited for a while to get to the circuit. For those wondering what’s the best way from Kuala Lumpur to Sepang, I found an easy and fast way but it’s a three step bit. Step one, take the KLIA express train from the KL Sentral to KLIA. That will probably take about 30-40 minutes. But don’t worry about being bored in that train, they’ve got free WiFi on it! Nice one! Step two, take the airport shuttle bus to Sepang circuit’s bus park. That itself takes 20 minutes in one of those old buses, really uncomfortable haha. Step three, take the circuit shuttle bus from the bus park to the entrance of the circuit, that only takes at least 5 minutes but waiting for people to board might take a while. If you can’t wait, you can actually walk all the way up to the circuit entrance from the bus park itself. Good 10-15 minute exercise right there people!

The first thing I did was to get the new F1 driver numbers flags! Apparently it was on sale for the first time that weekend in Sepang so I just had to get myself one! Well actually I got myself three small flags for my three favourite drivers, Jenson Button, Daniel Ricciardo and Nico Hülkenberg. These flags have the driver’s name on a small line at the top of the flag, either in white or black and main part of it has the driver’s number and his country’s flag colours. I actually got one of them signed during the driver’s forum a bit later on in the day!

F1 Driver Number Flags

The first bit of action I wanted to see was the Malaysian Super Series for the sole reason of watching my friend Claire Jedrek racing in that series. Never seen her race live before so it was cool to see someone I actually know on track! She started the first race in 7th and had a very strong race to finish 5th out of 50 cars! And it wasn’t an easy ride too, there were so many incidents during that race, one at the first corner, one at the second corner and she escaped one when these two clowns were fighting it out at Turn 1 with about 3 or 4 laps to go I think.

After that race it was down to the mall area to see the driver’s forum. I heard about this during the Australian Grand Prix and it’s cool to see it here too so it looks as if we’ve now got a new addition to the racing weekend’s activities for every circuit. Good on Formula One to bring the drivers closer to the fans. It works with IndyCar and NASCAR, F1 had to give it a try at least! What usually happens is three groups of drivers will show up in different time slots and they’ll be asked some questions by the MC and the fans too. I heard some really interesting questions like “who will win this weekend” or “who’s the most famous person in your phone contact list”.

I managed to get Nico Hülkenberg to sign the flag I got of his! He was signing stuff for everyone else after the session and I was standing probably four rows back and I showed him the flag and he ask the rest to help get it for him so he could sign it for me! I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, what a class act Nico Hülkenberg is. I’ve seen him at least four times now and every time he’s been really good to me and the other fans. I just cannot understand why he’s still not got a top seat in F1.  He’s got the talent to make it!

Nico Hülkenberg and Sergio Pérez

After that it was back to my seats at the K1 Grandstand and I got some really good seats. The view was quite amazing, you’ll get to see most parts of the main straight, Turns 1 and 2 and some bits of Turn 4. And with the DRS zone being at Turn 1, there’s bound to be a lot of overtakes going into Turn 1 and also into Turn 2 so I’ve got the perfect spot to watch some good racing. Check out the view!

My View

The first F1 session on the Saturday was the third and final practice session and I decided to walk around a little bit. I noticed there were no marshalls keeping guard at the entrance to each zone so I sneaked by to see what the view was like on the other parts of the K1 Grandstand and I have to say, I’m glad I bought the tickets I got because that was easily the best view of the rest of the grandstand.

The only other good view was at the other end of the grandstand where you can see Turns 3. You’ll get a different view of Turn 1 too. I spent half of the 3rd practice session watching the action from there and got a few good pictures too before heading back to my seat for the rest of FP3.

Even in the practice session a few drivers were already having some good battles going into Turn 1 so I already knew my seat was worth the money! After that session was something new. The first ever TCR International race. It was cool to see history in the making, being there to see their first ever race. It’s a bit similar to WTCC, a bunch of touring cars from at least five different manufactures racing around the world. They put on a good race for their first ever race so kudos to those guys. They’ll be in Singapore too so this won’t be the only time I’ll see them in action.

Turns 1 and 2

The final action on track was the qualifying session for the 2015 F1 Malaysian Grand Prix. Good news, we’ll get to see these guys decide the grid for the race tomorrow. Bad news, the rain clouds were quickly making their way across Sepang.

As some of you know, the race start timing for most of these Asian races had been pushed back a few hours to avoid the mess that happened at the Japanese Grand Prix last year. But if we’re pushing the start time back, why not the qualifying time as well? The race started at 3pm but qualifying started at 5pm. And guess what happens? At around 5.25pm, during the early bits of the second qualifying session, it rained! And when it rains in Sepang, it pours! And I mean a shitload of rain! My grandstand was covered but that didn’t help me that much.

Rain Stops

I ran all the way to the back of the grandstand to look for cover and after about 20 minutes, the rain stopped. Still, it was nice to catch up with some of the other fan during the waiting time. I have to say, there are more foreigners than locals at the circuit! Lots of Australians too but then again, Australia isn’t that far from Malaysia and you’ll see a lot of them in Singapore too.

Luckily they got Q3 going again and it was a good session, Sebastian Vettel nearly stole the pole position from Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes. Let’s not forget, Mercedes scored 18 out of 19 pole positions last year so that was a good effort from Vettel in his Ferrari. I’m still getting used to saying Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari together. There were some overtaking action during Q2 and Q3 too.

And you might have seen it but there was an almighty long line of cars at the end of pit-lane before the start of Q2, all of those guys were trying to avoid the rain and because of that, we got a bit of a mini race during that session. I think I saw Hamilton overtake two guys at Turn 1 at one point!

Hamilton and Grosjean

Sunday

It’s raceday! And I left pretty early in the hopes to get in line for the autograph session. And that failed miserably. There was already a long line of people when I got to the circuit and hour after gates had opened. I didn’t want to try my luck so I decided to see the session and see if I could sneak a few pictures of the drivers. That failed too. I have to say, the autograph session in Sepang was very messy. Very un-organised. One moment you can’t skip the line, the next you could. Make up your bloody minds! And the timing was weird too. At the start it was just Sergio Perez. I felt bad for those who were first in line because instead of getting autographs from four guys, they only got one guys’ autograph.

Sergio Pérez

Then came the Marussia guys and that’s when things got messy. At one point no-one was going up to the stage so they decided on the brilliant idea to let “Marussia fans” to jump the queue and get their autographs from outside the queue. And I can bet you everyone who went up wasn’t a fan of the team but just wanted some free autographs. I could have gotten theirs but I was just to pissed with how everything was going I decided not to waste my time. These guys need to learn from the guys at the Australian Grand Prix, they knew how to put on a good autograph session and I got a lot of driver’s autograph when I was in Albert Park!

Now on to the races and to the brilliant seats I had. All three races were great. The TCR race was alright even though I missed some parts of it to have laugh at the race cafe at the mall area. Fish N Chips as usual haha (they’ve got A&W at the main grandstand, and there’s no A&W in Singapore, buggers!). The MSS race went well too, luckily I didn’t miss the start because of that rather rubbish autograph session. Claire had an even better race, she finished 2nd! Nice one buddy! It was cool to see someone I know up on an F1 podium. And the Singapore flag “flying” high during that particular weekend too, that was cool.

Malaysian Super Series

The 2015 F1 Malaysian Grand Prix might just be the best race I’ve seen live. The racing action was just too good. And I think I got a bargain of a deal with the seats I got, it felt as if something would happen every other lap at Turn 1.

And yes, I did see Marcus Ericsson spinning off right in front of me too. And I got to see three cars going side by side by side into Turn 1 not once but twice! And I did get to see Hülkenberg crashing into Kvyat but from my view, it looked more like Kvyat didn’t give him enough room at Turn 2. Lots of overtaking action there so I’d really recommend a seat at the K1 Grandstand in the first few blocks to anyone thinking of going to the Malaysian Grand Prix in the future.

Ericsson spins!

And it was a great race too. It was cool to see Sebastian Vettel take his first win as a Ferrari driver in just his second race with them. Another history making moment happening right in front of my own eyes! Everyone in the crowd was cheering Vettel on and to think this is Malaysia, the dominant Mercedes team is backed by Petronas from Malaysia! Then again like I said earlier, there’s more foreigners than locals here!

It was about bloody time someone gave Mercedes a run for their money. And to think Nico Rosberg made that silly comment about wanting Ferrari to give them a fight, they sure got one in Malaysia and lost! As they say, keep your words soft and sweet if not you might have to eat them later! The racing was just brilliant today and like I said earlier, lots of overtaking down at Turn 1. Here’s a video of some of the great racing I saw.

So it was a great weekend after all, I really enjoyed my time at Sepang this time round. The first time it was alright but it wasn’t that great. This time around, I might have changed my opinion about the circuit and watching the race from there. Heck, I’m already thinking about coming back for another race and telling everyone to give it a look, I wouldn’t have done that the first time I was here! And the tickets in Sepang is a lot cheaper than anything I’ve seen so that helps. I still prefer the Australian and Singaporean grand prix events but now if I can’t make those races, I won’t have to worry about the Malaysian grand prix being the next alternative choice. It’s actually a pretty good choice itself!

Vettel Wins

Monday

Nothing happened on Monday, I was just walking around two mega malls for the most part of the day looking for stuff to buy. I found this one funny book about how Football Manager stole 20 years of this guy’s life, looks like a good read. I’m a FM addict myself haha. And I found three Oasis albums too, Heathen Chemistry, Don’t Believe the Truth and the very rare The Masterplan album. Anything from Oasis is always awesome.

Headed back to the airport and I saw members of four teams walking around at the airport (Ferrari, Williams, Sauber and Red Bull). The funniest thing I saw was the Ferrari guys creating a long queue at Burger King! Never knew those Italians liked Burger King haha! That’s my Malaysian Grand Prix weekend story and one final picture, this is a picture of my hotel room. Easily the best one I’ve seen. Aloft KL might be the hippest hotel I’ve been to haha! I wish this is what my room looks like haha!

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My 2014 a repeat of my 2012?

This year is starting to feel more and more like it did in 2012. Back then, I started the year in the Army, finally had my freedom, went to Australia in March and California in August/September and in October, started my new school program. For this year, I’ve just finished my Diploma program, enjoying my “freedom” for a little while before going through a preparatory program of sorts for the Degree program (still Accounting, hopefully less theory work and more numbers work) and then start that school in September and in between July till then, I might make a visit to good ol’ North America.

And if it all works out nicely, I might attend the same three motoracing events as I did in 2012, the Australian Grand Prix, the Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma and the Singapore Grand Prix, three very good events as three very different circuits but all usually giving great shows. If that’s not all, I’m trying to attend another event but this is something I’ve not seen before, hopefully I’ll get to watch a live wrestling show for once. LA usually hosts WWE’s 2nd biggest show SummerSlam and it would be kind cool to check it out live for myself for once. And it’s LA, maybe I should make another visit to Disneyland, truly the happiest place on earth. Or Universal Studios. Fun fact, I’ve never actually been to Singapore’s Universal Studios yet!

There’ll be some fun times coming up for this year I hope but also I have to work hard, my next school will be really tough and this time I can’t joke around any more so for those of you who know that I’m playing certain games online, don’t be surprised to see me take a break from them. I just hope I can get into that next school and do my best. I’ll still be in Singapore and not study overseas as I’ve always hoped to do just to see what it’s like (I like to travel and see other places but unlike most people here, I’d rather go to North America and Australia than the rest of Asia). There may be a chance for me to do some studying over in London with this program (it’s done by Uni of London) so who knows?

And this is also the year I’ll be back to wearing green but just for a week, thankfully my reservist is a week after my pre-degree course. Not sure what to expect but I can survive 5 days there. And hopefully I’ll be on that plane flying high a few days after it, just like I did in 2012 when I left for California two days after my two years of National Service was completed. I have no idea what the future holds but we’ll see how it goes. Hopefully this year will be just as fun as it was two years ago and then work like crazy for the next two years and do something with my life after it.