Grapevine: Paddock Life: Marina Bay edition

AUTOSPORT brings you its regular column of life inside the paddock. This week: Marina Bay

Grapevine: Paddock Life: Marina Bay edition

While F1 may have been a little sceptical about the Singapore Grand Prix before its first visit back in 2008, the calendar's only true night race is fast knocking on the door for the accolade of best race of the season.

With a fantastic weekend of entertainment for fans, good facilities for the teams and media considering it's a street circuit, and those amazing views of the city lit up an night that are broadcast around the world - the place delivers on all fronts.

And although the changeable weather conditions prompted fears of a bit of a crash-fest if the rain returned for race day, in the end it was a glorious evening that capped yet another great weekend for F1.

Formula 1 regulars who have been to Singapore before know full well about the time-zone challenges that come from the night race.

Most of the paddock tries to keep itself to European time - which means not going to bed until the early hours of the morning and not surfacing until early afternoon. It is a bit like being a student once again.

Bizarrely enough the skewed timetable - especially with the late starts - means that often mechanics get more sleep over the Singapore weekend than they do on a normal weekend, when 3am finishes after followed by 6am starts!

And while some drivers liked the leisurely evenings, Rubens Barrichello was not so sure.

"It's such an event, but I feel such a vagabond going to bed at 4am and waking up at 2pm," he said. "I feel sad! If the kids were here I would have to wake up at 6am, put them to school and go to bed again. It is a different life.

"You have to stay up late. I play poker the whole time. I am dying to sleep because otherwise what do you do? Do you wake up early and go the gym, get done after 2 hours and then come here?"

Formula 1's participants can sometimes be accused of not always showing much enthusiasm for the great spectacle that is grand prix racing.

The opposite could have been said of the youngsters who packed the Conrad Hotel in the build-up to the actual grand prix for the finals of the 'F1 in Schools' competition. Every single one of them showed nothing but pure passion and excitement for being part of something great.

The event had attracted some high profile interested visitors - including Bernie Ecclestone, Lucas di Grassi and Kamui Kobayashi - and there were raised eyebrows from the F1 fraternity present at the awards ceremony on Thursday night.

Cheers and whoops roared around the hotel as a host of awards were handed out for various achievement - including Outstanding Sportsmanship Award for the Impulse team from Dubai and UAE who lent one of their rival teams a laptop after their own went kaput. While the LG Moment of the Week went to Team Zenith from Wales for their clever portrayal of an LG logo on the floor of the posh Conrad hotel's reception at 4 o'clock one morning!

The biggest tension was reserved for the actual overall award though - and it was Unitus Racing from the United States that triumphed. Not bad for a team that had travelled 24 hours to just get to Singapore.

Their first port of call, after claiming the world championship trophy, was to visit another reigning champion - Jenson Button.

"Wow, it was a long journey for these guys, but I suppose it's like anything you want to achieve, it is a long journey," said the McLaren driver. "A lot of people would also say that the journey is the reward as well. I'm sure it has been for these guys, they have had a great experience designing the car and congratulations to them. I hope they've enjoyed this experience and enjoyed their trip to Singapore."

Singapore Grand Prix organisers go out of their way to ensure that the weekend is a full-on weekend of fun for spectators - which is why the city-state is full of concerts, stages and entertainment for fans.

As well as superstar Mariah Carey who played over the weekend, Singapore fans were treated to a gig from Missy Elliot. And each of them present that night was probably totally oblivious to a bit of cheeky fun that could well have seen BBC Radio 5's Holly Samos pushed onto stage instead of the rapper herself.

As Samos arrived at Singapore with BBC Radio 5 commentator David Croft, they spotted a large sign in the arrivals hall for 'Missy Elliot' from the staff that had been dispatched to pick her up.

Without a moment's hesitation, and always keen for a bit of a laugh, Crofty looked at the lady holding the Missy Elliot sign and said, 'Oh, here she is' pointing at Samos.

Within seconds, there was a big commotion as Samos was greeted like a mega-star. Instantly, the pair of them were starting to get ushered towards the waiting limousine.

Crofty and Samos were unsure of how far to take it, and in the end confessed before they got out of the airport that they were not actually who they said they were - and instead had been having a bit of a jape.

It would have been fascinating to have seen, however, how far they could have taken it. It would have been hugely amusing - until the moment Samos was pushed out on stage to show her rapping skills.

Formula 1 drivers have been well known to have had various lucky mascots with them throughout their careers - although it is not known if David Coulthard still wears his lucky underparts.

But in Singapore last weekend, Scuderia Toro Rosso definitely earned an award for perhaps the weirdest lucky mascot ever - and it was one that Ozzy Osbourne would have been proud of.

When the team turned up in Singapore to start preparing the garage, they noticed something that was hanging around in the ceiling. It was a dead bat - stuck in the metal frame high up off the floor.

Although it would have taken little effort to get a ladder to pull the bat down and give him an honourable sending off, the team wondered if it was actually a bit of a good luck charm - so it left him there.

However, it looks like the bat will not be asked back. Jaime Alguersuari had to start from the pits following a water leak and then endured what he reckoned was the most boring race of his career, while Sebastien Buemi suffered damage after contact with Kamui Kobayashi on the opening lap and struggled home outside the points.

As the tensions of the world championship battle increase, you have got to love the tiny little psychological games that go back and forth between the main protagonists.

In Singapore we witnessed McLaren heaping the pressure on Red Bull Racing by saying it was a 'crunch' race for the title; we saw Red Bull Racing respond by suggesting it was no longer worried about McLaren as a title threat but that Ferrari was now its main opposition. And so on.

But Jenson Button grabbed the prize over the weekend for a bit of a light-hearted jape about the relationship between Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel during a press conference at McLaren on Saturday.

"Having Seb and Mark at each other's necks is fantastic," said Button. "I think they are going to struggle for the rest of the season because of that. Christian Horner is finding it tough having those two at each other's necks, but he is coping alright. He has got the shakes I've noticed lately!!!"

Cue much laughter.

The reason Button's comments were so funny was that moments before Red Bull Racing team principal Horner had walked into the McLaren motorhome for a meeting with Martin Whitmarsh.

And, with the team bosses sat just behind a sponsor hoarding in the team's hospitality unit, Button knew that this was a perfect opportunity for a bit of fun at Horner's expense. All the media present agreed it was brilliant stuff - and probably the best quotes of the year!

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