Singapore to host F1 untill 2017

Sir Jackie Stewart was patrolling the paddock at the SingTel Singapore Grand Prix just before qualifying last night, as he usually does.

The three-time world champion has Formula One in his blood and the 73-year-old can continue his walk along Marina Bay at least for the next five years after the announcement of the contract extension yesterday evening.

Speaking to The New Paper, the Scot said: "For me, Singapore is one of the most enjoyable races to come to. It is as glamorous and colourful as Monaco.

"I congratulate all those in Singapore who decided to go for another five years because Singapore gets more illumination from F1 than any activity on a global basis.

"The skyline looks fantastic. It's the only proper night race and the F1 community loves coming here."

At 7pm yesterday, Second Minister for Home Affairs & Trade and Industry S Iswaran broke the news before a packed conference room in the paddock.

Sitting alongside him were the other principal players - Formula One Administration (FOA) president and chief executive officer Bernie Ecclestone, business tycoon Ong Beng Seng and Singapore Tourism Board chief executive Lionel Yeo.

Said Mr Iswaran: "I am pleased to inform you that Singapore will continue to host the F1 Grand Prix till 2017. We have just concluded the agreement today.

"Negotiations have taken some time because all parties had specific objectives, and wanted to arrive at mutually beneficial outcomes."

He revealed that the Singapore Government started discussions on the matter about a year ago and conducted a "careful and deliberate study" on the costs and benefits of hosting the race.

Among other figures, the study showed that the race attracted more than 150,000 international visitors over the last four years, and about $140 to $150 million in incremental tourism receipts each year.

Mr Iswaran said: "The cost of organising each race has been about $150m, with the Government co-funding about 60 per cent of the approved costs. We expect to achieve a further reduction of the net cost to Government through a combination of factors..."

Earlier reports on the matter cited the franchise fee payable to FOA as the major stumbling block in the new contract, with Singapore reportedly paying an estimated US$44m ($55.3m) to host the race last year.

Ecclestone joked: "I think probably the most important thing was to explain to the minister that we don't race for free!" To which, Mr Iswaran countered with a smile: "Which, you can imagine, I found hard to accept!"

Elaborating later on the financial aspects of the deal, Mr Iswaran said: "It's not just about franchise fee... there are many revenue streams in this business... how do you work out the sharing ratio and who gets what?

"Overall, taking all these factors into account, we will be able to achieve significant savings, I think in the magnitude of 15 to 20 per cent, but we will not be able to give definite numbers until we look at it."

Mr Iswaran spoke of his pride over how the race had affected some young Singaporeans.

"Each year, we have 1,000 ITE (Institute of Technical Education) students working in the circuit park and doing a whole range of jobs. "The ITE teacher said about 3,000 students applied to do this, and about 1,000 get selected every year.

"I had the chance to meet some of them and the first thing that struck me about them was how proud they were to be associated with an event such as this."

The F1 hotel levy - 30 per cent for trackside hotels and 20 per cent for those further away- will remain unchanged at present.

Mr Iswaran said no changes to the circuit were being planned at the moment, although options are constantly being looked at.

Speaking after qualifying last night, Red Bull Racing's Sebastian Vettel, the defending world champion, suggested one change.

"We've discussed this many times - to find a better solution for Turn 10 (Singapore Sling) which probably requires removing the pavement for three or four days," he said.

"I would imagine if you consider the cost of this whole event, taking the pavement away and putting it back on wouldn't be a big problem.

"In terms of safety, it is one of the worst corners in the calendar because you've got these big curves and big bumps, and it gets tricky."

Stewart had a simpler request as he said: "We may be able to do with a little more space, and a little more air conditioning in the garage!"

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