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Singapore Grand Prix keeps the crowds coming back: promoter

Circuit Park will be packed over the three days of the event, says Singapore GP's executive director

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Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel driving at the Marina Bay Street Circuit during the first practice session on Friday.

Singapore

NOW in its eleventh year, the Singapore Grand Prix continues to draw crowds, with brisk sales in the run-up to the event, says the race organiser.

Discounting the naysayers, Singapore GP executive director Michael Roche highlighted: "Everybody said: 'It was the last year, that's why we had a bumper year last year. It's going to die this year'. But (spectators are) coming out in droves and I think you'll see on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, this Circuit Park is going to be absolutely packed."

At the ritzy Paddock Club and various other corporate hospitality offerings around the Marina Bay street circuit, the event typically attracts close to 9,000 well-heeled attendees each year.

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The premium hospitality tickets range in price from S$3,000 for a three-day pass, while the high-end Paddock Club goes for S$10,000.

Companies hosting guests come from diverse industries but tend to lean more towards multinational brands - such as UBS and Rolex - than local brands.

Meanwhile, the final tally for public ticket sales will be released on Sunday, as there is usually a last-minute surge in sales in the three weeks leading up to the race. Mr Roche declined to share figures but added: "We're very proud of what we've got this year and the support is very welcome."

In what was meant to be the last year of the Singapore Grand Prix, the 2017 event was attended by 260,400 race-goers over the three days. But Singapore ended up extending its contract to remain on the starting grid until 2021, just as Formula One (F1) came under new management on the back of a multi-billion-dollar acquisition by Liberty Media. And with Malaysia ending its run as a F1 host last year, Singapore is the only South-east Asian destination on the race calendar this season.

A tight race could also be a draw, as was the case last year. Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton and Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel are battling it out for the championship, with Hamilton currently leading the driver's standings at 256 points. While the street circuit appears to favour Ferrari, Hamilton snagged top spot on the podium at the 2017 Singapore Grand Prix and takes the wheel in Singapore fresh from a surprise win at the Italian Grand Prix.

Commenting on how Singapore GP has worked together with F1's new management for the 2018 event, Mr Roche said: "We are falling in line with some of the marketing models that Formula One wants to do, and others we're resisting a little bit. We want to retain our independence and personality, we don't just want to be a cookie-cutter event."

To appeal to race fans and non-race fans alike, the night race aims to deliver a carnival-like atmosphere, with scheduled performances taking place around the Marina Bay circuit. Headliners in this year's line-up include Taiwanese pop star Jay Chou, rock band The Killers, British soul and pop band Simply Red and English singer-songwriter Dua Lipa.

The celebrities won't just be on stage. Among those attending the Grand Prix on Sunday is Crazy Rich Asians star Michelle Yeoh - who is married to Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile president Jean Todt - and some of her cast mates.

Over the past decade, the Singapore Grand Prix has generated incremental tourism spend totalling about S$1.4 billion for Singapore. The government funds 60 per cent of the cost of the race - which now works out to about S$135 million annually - while Singapore GP covers the balance.

Commenting on the targets for this year, Jean Ng, director (sports) at the Singapore Tourism Board, said: "We hope to generate incremental tourism receipts of about S$140 million, with overseas visitors comprising about 40 per cent of the total number of spectators."

Key source markets usually include the United Kingdom, Australia, China, Thailand, Hong Kong, Japan, Holland and Germany. But visitors come from all over, including Botswana, Uganda and Chad, race promoter Singapore GP added.