There’s motor racing, and then there’s formula one. It’s glamorous, sophisticated and captures the attention of people from all walks of society.
ormula One is officially the highest class of single seater motor racing in the world and the cars are super fast, but there is something else about it; something that is much harder to put a finger on. It has its own aura and it takes over various cities in the world as it passes through.
The number of Grand Prix races in a season has varied over the years and hosting an event is big business. Holding the rights can mean serious money for a local economy so competition is always high to secure a spot.
For the fans, each race on the calendar has different meaning. Some are rightly regarded for the history of the event or the stature of the track, while others are an experience where the whole city gets into the spirit and makes it a real occasion. Either way, these are the races for the traveller.
Despite being one of the most recent additions to the Formula One calendar, Singapore has quickly gained a reputation as a race not to be missed. While it is noteworthy for being the first street circuit track in Asia, it is most famous for providing the first ever night time event anywhere in the world.
On the track, Singapore encourages visitors to get up close and personal with pit lane walks and garage tours on given days, while entertainment from the likes of Tom Jones, The Killers, Rihanna and … Justin Bieber … is sure to cover off the tastes of any fan.
For the traveller, Singapore is a safe environment, has very good public transport, first-class medical services and English is spoken by the vast majority – all making you feel comfortable when getting around outside the race track precinct.
Street food and pop-up bars are a great treat and really add to the atmosphere on Formula One week. And, like a lot of south-east Asia, it’s all very affordable. Given the high quality of living, shopping is a noted highlight – one shopping centre alone has more than a million square feet of retail space. That’s like combining a workout with the search for a new wardrobe.
Perhaps the most appealing part of Singapore is that you can experience so much in such a small area. As a relatively new country, there is still significant input from neighbouring cultures, all adding to the feel of the place. This is also reflected in the food, which has wonderful influences from local Chinese, Malay and Indian cuisines.
Should you want to be active, the southern island of Pulau Hantu has some magnificent coral reefs for scuba diving while there is also a strong music and art scene if you want to sit back and be entertained.
It is this diversity of interests that clearly lends itself well to hosting a Formula One race. Locals are keen to get out and support events – despite the horrendous traffic – and there is enough wonderful culture, history, sport and recreation to make it an appealing destination for any traveller.
All of this is amplified during race week. Grand Prix weekend is the hottest party of the year in Singapore. Any given bar or nightclub is going to show the races on big screens or serve up race-themed cocktails, while restaurants offer special Grand Prix themed dinners.
In recent years, the city has attracted international performance artists to add to the festival feel. International comedians, illusionists, aerial acrobats and more were all performing special shows through the 2013 event.
Put this altogether and you can see why Singapore loves the F1s – and vice versa.
One of Formula One’s most historic tracks, Monza, has hosted Grands Prix since the early 1920s and throughout the modern era.
The Monza circuit is so famous that you’ll find plenty of tourists there when racing isn’t on; however the opportunity to blend one of the great Formula One events and a cultural trip to Italy at the same time is hard to pass up.
In perfect Italian style, the track is located in a former royal park in what is essentially a suburb of Milan. The park is the fourth largest enclosed park in Europe with one third of it covered with woodland and the rest lawn. The Autodromo Nazionale Monza race track is positioned inside the park, providing a certain plush formality among the scene of sweeping landscaped period gardens and manicured woodland. The timing of the race in September, when the summer heat has passed and the autumn is creeping in, makes it one of the most beautiful of all F1 tracks. Many fanatics choose to camp onsite in the park but the well-heeled choose any number of aristocratic villas for rent in Monza itself.
This distinctive positioning of the track creates something more akin to a community. Diehard fans can live and breathe every moment of every day, and simply wander through the park uninterrupted. It is a unique experience that you will either love or find a little stifling.
Should you want to leave the walled park, Monza is lined with many beautiful and culturallyimportant buildings that are stunning to wander around and view, but other than that… tourism activities might seem a little limited. That is until you remember that Milan is only 15km away.
As the second largest city in Italy, Milan is big enough to have everything you want. Beautiful history and remarkable buildings are evident everywhere you turn, while a number of spectacular public gardens offer peace and tranquillity. Museums and art galleries will cater to your cultural needs and ensure that you can return home sounding smarter than someone who just went to a car race.
Of course, Milan is also home to two world-class football teams (A.C. Milan and F.C. Internazionale Milano), so if you time your trip well you can be sure to top up the sporting levels before you go. As you would hope for any city in Italy, food plays an important role in the daily routine. However, it should be noted – just so you’re not surprised – that the regional cuisine in the Milan area uses rice more than pasta and features almost no tomato. Either way, get out and eat. And eat some more just to be sure.
It amounts to a different type of F1 experience. On one hand, the Monza track would seem to lend itself to the absolute enthusiast at a genuine and raw level, yet the proximity of Milan allows for a completely different experience that you could indulge in weeks after the cars have moved on.
Excerpted from an article originally published in the February/March 2014 issue of Think & Grow Rich Inc. magazine. If you are a subscriber to Think & Grow Rich Inc. magazine, you will receive this article in your February/March 2014 issue of TGR. If you are not a subscriber, click here to subscribe.