MAY 10, 2007

Singapore to miss 2008?

There are reports in Asia that Singapore is going to miss the chance to host a Formula 1 race in 2008 because the locals cannot make up their minds how to fund the event. The Straits Times reports that negotiations between Singapore hotel owner Ong Beng Seng, F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone and Singapore's government are yet to find a financial deal as Ong wants government help to pay for the event and the government does not want to pay the bill. There is also talk that the talks are snagged over the question of whether or not the event should be at night, which would make the race more expensive to run.

What is clear is that time is running out because the Singapore government needs around 16 months to build the necessary new roads and facilities to welcome F1 and if a decision does not come soon, Singapore will go on to the backburner. It may be that the leak to the press is a way to try and speed up a decision from the government, which is well aware that it missed a major opportunity to host F1 back in the 1990s and may not want to make the same mistake again.

Singapore wants F1 to brighten up its image, boost its tourism and, perhaps most importantly, win back business from cities such as Dubai and Shanghai which have affected earnings from the convention trade.

These stories may, however, be linked to the whispers in Spain that Valencia has secured a date in 2008, which may mean that Singapore has already missed the boat and must now wait for another slot to become available. The good news for Singapore is that Bernie Ecclestone wants to expand the calendar to 20 races from the current 17. Abu Dhabi and South Korea are due to join the circus in 2009 and there are several circuits bidding for the other event, notably Valencia, India, Singapore, Suzuka and Imola. Some of the new races may be able to get dates on the F1 calendar if current races drop out.