The Singapore Formula 1 Grand Prix: A weekend party destination closer than Vegas

The Singapore Grand Prix is no longer just for boys and their toys – organisers have turned it into a weekend-long festival with an A-list line-up of entertainers.

It's extravagant with unrivalled parties and celebrities galore, and while Las Vegas may hold the title, it's not the only city of sin.

Singapore has been long popular with tourists, mainly as a stopover destination, but for one weekend a year the city is turned into one of the best party spots in the world – and at just half the flight-time away.

The Formula 1 may be famous for the rev of engines, the smell of oil and burned rubber, and speeds of up to 375km/h, but the Singapore Grand Prix (September 14 to 16) is no longer just for boys and their toys.

Organisers in the south-east Asian island city state have transformed the predominantly male sporting event into something that resembles a weekend-long festival at the F1's first ever night race with Michelin-starred food stalls, an A-list line-up of entertainers, roving performers, after-parties galore and the piece de resistance – exclusive clubs, where you can kick back with a chilled espresso martini alongside the rich and famous.

FOOD

Once inside the confines of the Singapore GP, you'll have access to some of the best hawker stands in Asia, serving up noodles, satays and curries, sometimes for less than the price of a Big Mac. If that doesn't tickle your fancy, there are also the not-so-Singaporean options (burgers, hotdogs and chips).

It was my first time to visit the country, so I followed in the lead of the locals and started out with some chicken satay skewers, followed by a small of bowl of laksa and all washed down by a glass of rosé and a large, cool bottle of water on my first night trackside. (Staying hydrated is imperative in Singapore's heat with temperatures of up to 32 degrees in September.)

If you head to Zone 1 (there are four zones in total), and time your dining wisely, you could be chowing down while some of the biggest names in music take to the Village stage – the likes of Simply Red will perform this year.

Outside the Marina Bay circuit, the novelty lies in sampling the world's cheapest Michelin-starred restaurant, Liao Fan Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice & Noodle in Chinatown.

The most famous dish is, as the name goes, its soya sauce chicken rice with owner, Chan Hon Meng, seeking at least $2 million for the recipe.

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EXCLUSIVE CLUBS, PARTIES, VIP-ONLY

Not everyone can survive Singapore's infamous 80 per cent humidity that shows no sign of letting up, even at night. That's why the aircon-filled executive suites, lounges and clubs, scattered around the track, although exxy, are so popular.

The Paddock Club at Marina Bay is the place to be and be seen, where the rich and famous congregate (Duran Duran and One Republic hung out there last year).

The novelty is that it backs onto the drivers' areas, where you might spot Australian Red Bull driver Daniel Ricciardo or Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton as you sit in The Garden with unlimited access to a number of world-famous restaurants and bars.

I felt like a kid in a candy shop stopping off at Nobu for starters, Jean Georges for mains, (two Las Vegas hotspots) and for dessert, Tarte (fans of two-Michelin-starred Les Amis will be familiar with their pastry chef, Cheryl Koh).

But it doesn't come cheap. Entry to The Paddock Club costs a cool $8800 a person for use over the three-day weekend, making it one of the most expensive clubs in the world.

Not too unlike a Russian doll, within its confines there are more exclusive areas like the invite-only Board Walk – a bar that sits trackside where you can feel the gust from the cars as the drivers whiz past.

There's also the more exclusive Como Cuisine and the Cascaden Suite – where the likes of kings, queens and sultans mingle and the multimillion-dollar business deals are made.

For the after-party, the Amber Lounge (particularly on Sunday night) is where the drivers and teams let their hair down. It has a 1OAK vibe, but on a much smaller scale. Individual entry to the club is $1200, while the best table in the house is $31,000.

THE STAND-OUTS

1. Concerts: All race-viewing tickets allow access to the not-to-be missed post-race concerts (leave the last race a little early if you want a better view) with an A-list line-up over the three nights, that will this year include The Killers, Liam Gallagher and Martin Garrix. 

2. Singapore Flyer: See the track and views over the city from 165 metres in the air. 

3. Marina Bay Sands: With arguably the most Instagrammed rooftop pool in the world that's like Noah's arc (if Noah's arc was three Olympic infinity swimming pools in length) stranded on the top of three skyscrapers. The hotel is like a small city in itself with 60 restaurants and stores, two theatres and one of the biggest casinos in SE Asia, while other amenities, such as the Gardens by the Bay, are just a five-minute walk away. Rooms from $415 a night.

TRIP NOTES

MORE

traveller.com.au/singapore

singaporegp.sg

visitsingapore.com

FLY

Singapore Airlines operates regular daily flights to and from Sydney and Melbourne and other Australian capitals. See singaporeair.com

STAY

Pan Pacific Singapore​

TOUR

The Grand Prix is on September 14-16

There are as many ticket variations as there are stars in the sky to suit varying budgets (just don't leave it too long to purchase, as some of the more popular ticket options sell out early), but to give you an idea, an adult single day ticket starts at $78, while a three-day grandstand ticket is $2105.

And while the latter will mean you will have some of the best views of the action, you'll be far from slumming at the former price point.

TRAVEL

Singapore takes organisation to the next level and although some of the roads are blocked off around the track, public transport will easily get you from A to B.

Buy a Singapore Tourist Pass, which will allow you unlimited travel on trains and buses for the three days for $18.

The writer travelled as a guest of Singapore Grand Prix.

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