• The Inside Line

Singing with success

ESPN Staff
September 20, 2013
Singapore shines brightly on the F1 calendar © Sutton Images
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Approximately 100 million years ago in Internet Time - or, you know, back during the Monaco Grand Prix weekend - I blogged about the dearth of parties and launches.

Some read the piece as the whining of a spoiled journalist out for goodie bags, while others got the point - if teams and sponsors weren't using the Monaco Grand Prix for the usual corporate ends, was it an indication of a growing sense of ennui with the sport as a promotional vehicle?

Because F1 parties aren't about champagne and canapés (most of the time!). They're networking events where business is done in an informal environment, an extension of the Paddock Club.

If sponsors and corporate bigwigs weren't splashing their cash around the Monaco harbour, there had to be a reason why. At the time, I wrote that I hoped that reason would be Singapore, F1's 'other' glamorous race, the shiny and new(ish) Asian jewel in the crown. The alternative was that F1 was no longer offering the high-flyers with a return on their investment, and the implications of that were far too dreadful to contemplate.

While the purity of sport is a wonderful thing, Formula One is both sport and business, two entities locked in a symbiotic and co-dependent relationship. Remove the corporate cash from F1, take away the sponsors, and what remains is not 22 of the world's best drivers charging around the classic circuits we know and desperately miss.

No, when you take the money out of the sport all that remains is a dashed pile of dreams surrounded by a bunch of very expensive equipment.

Which is why it was a relief when the invitations started rolling in for the Singapore Grand Prix weekend, from product launches to sponsor events, team jollies to the Amber Lounge fashion show (a partner to the Monaco show, not a replacement).

The events themselves are hardly Bacchanalian orgies of decadence. Instead, invited guests shuffle awkwardly around until the speeches start, at which point we are treated to mini films or PowerPoint presentations extolling the virtues of x product or y sponsor before nibbling a few canapés and moving on to do more of the same at the next event.

But their very existence is vital to the future of Formula One. It is at these parties that the corporate high-rollers have their two or three minutes of face time with big name drivers, taking photos and collecting stories that they will dine out on for months to come. And it is those magic moments that keep the sponsors investing in the sport, that convince local businesses to make Formula One a vital part of their corporate entertainment budget.

The fact that Singapore has taken over from Monaco as the corporate F1 destination is a clear sign that the locus of power is moving eastwards. But what matters is not where the bigwigs spend their cash, but the fact that they keep spending it inside the sport.

Singapore is the sexy young thing of the F1 calendar - fresh, vibrant, and full of life. Monaco will never lose its glamour, but it may be time for the dowager countess to acknowledge that it is someone else's time to shine.

That's what the corporate dollars are saying, and in this sport nothing is louder than money - not even 22 engines revving at 18,000 rpm.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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