Endorphins have an incredible hold over the human body. They make you feel good during exercise and some people can’t get enough of them – and none more than Michael Schumacher. Two hours after qualifying on Saturday night he was spotted cycling the circuit with his trainer, while other drivers were tucked away in the cool of their team hospitality suites.
Clearly, the heady mix of high pressure, high g-forces and exceptional heat weren’t enough for the seven-time champion, and he needed to get his endorphin hit by other means. You’re putting us all to shame, Michael. You’re 43!
While Schumacher was pounding around the Marina Bay Circuit on his bike, the beautiful people of Singapore were thumping away on the dance floor of the Amber Lounge. Formula One’s official party venue is located adjacent to the track this weekend and it’s keeping the sport’s VIPs entertained until the early hours on Saturday and Sunday nights.
The highlight of Saturday night’s ‘Lounge’ was the Amber Fashion show, in which a lot of the Third Drivers on the grid strutted their stuff in front of a full house. Sebastien Buemi (Red Bull Racing), Sam Bird (MERCEDES AMG PETRONAS), Jules Bianchi (Force India), Jerome d’Ambrosio (Lotus) and Dani Clos (HRT) were the chosen models.
Although there wasn’t a winner as such, the cheer for d’Ambrosio was enough to make observers come away in no doubt as to the crowd’s favourite. Jerome’s blue eyes and dark hair is enough to make any lady melt in this heat, that’s for sure!
The Amber Lounge hasn’t been the only entertainment laid on by the race organisers over the weekend. The Padang main stage has been packed out with world-famous musicians every night and given that Katy Perry was the headline act on Sunday night, organisers at the Amber Lounge weren’t expecting their VIP areas to fill up until after she’d stopped.
However, by far the biggest cheer on Sunday evening was for Professor Sid Watkins. He died last week aged 82 and to celebrate all that he’s done for F1 since he came on board as F1’s official doctor in 1978, there was a minute’s applause on the grid. RIP Sid, you will be sorely missed.
Formula One might be the main event in Singapore this week, but it hasn’t been immune from the chaos caused by the launch of the iPhone 5. The queues for the latest Smart phone were at their worst on Orchard Road, the main shopping artery of Singapore, and they meant that a proposed appearance by Force India’s third driver Jules Bianchi had to be cancelled because he couldn’t get to the merchandising shop where he was expected!
They were crazy scenes, but not as extreme as watching the mechanics working in the sweltering conditions during practice at the Marina Bay Circuit. A mid-afternoon rain shower prior to FP1 generated unbearable humidity, in addition to an ambient temperature of 33 degrees. The conditions prompted Williams F1 team manager Dickie Stanford to come up with an amusing analogy.
“If people at home want to know what it’s like for the mechanics,” he said, “they should stand in a hot shower fully clothed and hold a spanner.” Nice.
One man going to an extreme to keep cool is Nico Rosberg’s PR manager Georg Nolte. He’s still sporting the ‘crew cut’ inflicted on him by the MERCEDES AMG PETRONAS mechanics prior to the summer break in August, which was a delayed celebratory snip following Nico’s win at the Chinese Grand Prix in April.
“They wanted to shave it after China,” says Georg. “I managed to persuade them to wait until the break so that it had time to grow back before the next race! My wife thought 3mm was too short, so I’ve let it grow to 8mm since then and she seems happy with that. It’s my hot weather specification!”
The hot equatorial conditions mark the return of the paddling pool to the F1 paddock. Yes, several drivers have brought the pools to Marina Bay – but they’re strictly used for work. They are filled with water, which is chilled to 11 degrees and the drivers jump in at the end of each on-track session to bring down their core temperature.
No-one on the grid has continued former Williams F1 star Rubens Barrichello’s slightly odd tradition of sitting in engineering debriefs with his feet wrapped in ice. At least none of the drivers are admitting to it this year...
For the teams and drivers, the Singapore Grand Prix means a topsy-turvy timetable: sleep by day and work by night. Some call it “staying on European time”, while others have an altogether more basic description.
“It’s like being a student,” says MERCEDES AMG PETRONAS star Nico Rosberg. “We get to stay up all night, which is fun and it feels a bit weird over a grand prix weekend. It gives this race a completely different feel and that’s why I think it’s so popular with the paddock.”
Unlike real students, however, Nico has filled his nights with work and discipline. When his media work was completed on Thursday night, he went for a cycle ride around the Marina Bay Street Circuit for two hours – between 0000 and 0200. He then headed back to his hotel for dinner at 0300 and no beer was consumed! Clearly, the winner of the Chinese Grand Prix needs a few lessons on what it’s like to be a student.
As a result of the nocturnal timetable, you’re likely to stumble across some ‘lost in F1’ moments. Drivers and team bosses can be found wandering the streets of Singapore at silly o’ clock, either looking for somewhere to eat, or just taking some exercise. On Thursday night Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel were spotted running near the track at 0300, while another star – Williams F1’s third driver Valtteri Bottas – went the whole hog and actually ran back to his hotel.
Perhaps the most bizarre late night jaunt has been undertaken by Heikki Kovalainen, who went to play golf at 0300 on Thursday. We’ve heard of trying to beat the queue on the first tee, Heikki, but this is going to an extreme!
After the miserable summer endured by northern Europe this year, a return to the Tropics has been a shock for many F1 folk. Bruno Senna was so in awe of the 80 percent humidity after doing his track walk on Thursday that he immediately looked up the temperature at Spa-Francorchamps.
“We definitely need more hot races,” was Bruno’s reaction when he saw that the temperature at Spa was 13 degrees. And more night races, Bruno!