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Singapore Grand Prix revs up its hospitality options
THE amount race promoter Singapore GP spends on the Paddock Club has been growing each year as the lifestyle area expands with new and bigger outlets; this year's S$5 million tab is one of the highest on the F1 calendar.
There are 21 races this season and the Singapore Grand Prix stands out, not only for being the first night race, but also for its wow factor and big budget.
Unlike more motorsport-focused venues, the Marina Bay Street Circuit is unique for its carnival-like atmosphere which every ticket holder gets to enjoy.
Then there is the post-race entertainment in the form of world-class music acts; this weekend's international line-up includes Imagine Dragons, Kylie Minogue, Queen + Adam Lambert and KC and the Sunshine Band.
But for some corporate guests, one of the most impressive aspects of the Singapore Grand Prix has to be the lavish spread of food and beverage (F&B) offerings in the hospitality suites.
It comes as no surprise. Singapore GP executive director Michael Roche said the promoter has focused on world-class hospitality since the inaugural Formula One race in 2008.
"From year one, when we negotiated the contract, it was critical to control the F&B experience from paddock to grandstand and the greater circuit park," he said.
"We did not want to have just beers and burgers. We wanted to reflect our Singapore landscape by bringing it into our circuit and to showcase what HPL's group of companies is about.
HPL managing director Ong Beng Seng is the race promoter, and his wife Christina is a fashion-and-lifestyle maven who runs the Como group, which oversees F1 hospitality.
Each year, guests are treated to the cuisine of celebrity chefs, plus a free flow of champagne, wine, beer, spirits and other drinks in the hospitality suites. There are five categories of suites this year - Paddock Club, Sky Suite, Club Suite, The Green Room and Lounge@Turn 3.
The Paddock Club - overlooking the team garages, starting grid and the paddock - is the priciest, with a three-day pass costing S$8,880. For the upcoming race weekend, three-Michelin-starred chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten again helms the kitchen, whipping up his American and European flavours.
Nobu also returns with his Japanese-Peruvian fusion, as does Como Cuisine - a hit last year with its organic alternatives; local pastry chef Cheryl Koh of Tarte debuts with her signature sweets.
The themed F&B areas include an English pub and last year's izakaya concept, which makes a return with an expanded menu of Japanese food, sakes and whiskies; Yamazaki whisky is especially popular, said Mr Roche.
"We added more outlets because people don't necessarily want to stay in the same suite for all three days."
There is "significant" cost, though, for the suites' food and décor, staffing and entertainment.
"It is extremely expensive, but it pays off. From the oysters and caviar, to the champagne and fine wine, we are so far off the charts from other F1 races on the calendar. We want to over-deliver because we want a wow factor every day - Friday, Saturday and Sunday."
The heavy investment and attention to detail are why Singapore GP's corporate sales remain strong with each successive year of Formula One, he said.
"The response is overwhelming, with the retention rate at over 75 per cent - even in our ninth year. It shows we're doing something that is quite well-received."