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The upside down world of night racing in Singapore

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F1 Mole | 12:33 UK time, Saturday, 26 September 2009

Singapore may be infamous as the scene of Renault's race-fix scandal but what Formula 1's organisers had in mind when night-racing dawned here in 2008 was the spectacle - high-speed racing through the streets under the beam of floodlights and the electric glow of an eastern metropolis.

Such scenes are best viewed from above and so The Mole boarded the largest ferris wheel in the world, the Singapore Flyer, for a bird's eye perspective of practice.

From up high, it was fascinating to see the street circuit weave its way alongside the marina and under the city's flyover as every so often an F1 car darted beneath eight lanes of meandering traffic.

singwheel595.jpgF1 in Singapore is a spectacular sight - but it plays havoc with the brains of those involved

While 15,000 white spheres light the drivers' way, beyond them the night sky is broken by the neon of Singapore's skyscrapers and the yellow glow of the city.

To put it simply, Singapore's night race is a stunning sight.

"It's the contrast that makes it so exciting," says Getty Images photographer Mark Thompson, who reckons all the snappers relish the chance to be creative in Singapore.

"It's about capturing the balance between dusk fading into night; the blurring movement of the lights and the cars and the totally unique environment of a race in the heart of a city."

Despite its visual appeal, Singapore's night racing requires the whole F1 circus - from the drivers, to the cooks and the media - to alter its thinking. Or, more accurately, to delude itself.

Ever the man for an apt phrase, Rubens Barrichello summed up perfectly just what it is like at F1's only night-time grand prix under Singapore's stars.

"I've always been told by my father to go to bed very early if I wanted to be a racing driver and here I must wait until 4am to go to bed," said Brawn's Brazilian driver.

"It's amazing! It's a totally different philosophy."

On-track activities may happen in the evening local time but media duties and team meetings drift on long into the early hours. To cope with 'pulling an all-nighter' the majority of the paddock continues to operate on European time.

McLaren say they go to sleep at 5am in Singapore and get up at 1pm while Brawn's reserve driver and BBC 5 Live analyst, Anthony Davidson, has even gone as far as keeping the hands of his wristwatch firmly fixed on UK time.

The concept of working in a different time zone is confusing; never has the phrase "what time is it?" been heard so often at BBC HQ, followed by "what UK or Singapore?"

Everyone has a tale to tell about the consequences of such confusion whether it's eating sushi for breakfast or mistakenly walking into a hotel linen cupboard in a semi-comatose state.

One experienced F1 hand was heard to say; "We'll really have to stay out of the sun in this heat during the race". What even at a night race?

To make matters worse, Singapore sticks rigidly to its own body clock, which means snoozing through the morning bustle or finding a restaurant that stays open beyond 2am requires great reserves of patience.

Luckily, the Mole's hunger has been sated by the discovery of a 24-hour food mall - recommended by the proprietor of the 24-hour corner shop - which serves up vegetables and steaming rice for £1.50.

Veterans of last year's inaugural grand prix have warned that as the weekend wears on, the body slowly starts to crave sunshine and night-time slumber and angrily demands to be switched to Singapore time.

As it happens, F1 will lurch forward eight hours sooner than it might like as everyone will go local - and hopefully not loco - for next week's Japanese Grand Prix.


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