F1 legend Lauda says Singapore Grand Prix must stay
With current deal ending in 2017, F1 legend Lauda describes Singapore race as 'best of the season'
There is much uncertainty surrounding Formula 1, after Liberty Media's recent announcement that it will buy out CVC Capital Partners for a controlling stake in the sport.
While the loose ends are tied up over the blockbuster deal, the future of the Formula 1 Singapore Airlines Singapore Grand Prix is also up in the air, with the current contract to host the race here ending next year.
The Singapore Tourism Board have already said that "a decision has not been reached", but F1 legend Niki Lauda says new owners or not, the absence of the Singapore race on the calendar will be a "disaster".
"For me, it's the best race of the season," said the 67-year-old Austrian, at the paddock yesterday before the start of opening practice, ahead of tomorrow's Grand Prix along downtown Singapore.
"It's an incredible event because it's a night-time race shown at 2pm in Europe, with pictures that nobody has ever seen before.
"If this race is not here anymore, it would be a disaster for F1."
With a blend of sports and entertainment acts like Bon Jovi, Jay Chou and Mariah Carey, the Singapore race at the Marina Bay street circuit has drawn over 350,000 tourists and generated an average of about $150 million in incremental tourism receipts annually since 2008.
While some drivers and teams are asking for the current 21-race calendar to be scaled back to 20, former McLaren pilot David Coulthard does not believe that the Republic should worry about the race being cut.
The 45-year-old former racer said: "You can see that everyone loves coming here... I would have thought that it would be other races that are at risk.
"Singapore has become a modern classic; I don't know what the commercial negotiations are, but I certainly think that it's a great Grand Prix."
Some have speculated that the new owners may be keen to utilise social media to attract younger fans, as well as to make money out of the platform, and that F1 may eventually follow the American style of sports presentation, which favours more glitz and glamour.
But Coulthard doesn't think the new owners will change the fundamental way F1 is presented.
He said: "I think it (the buy-out) is a business play... I don't think it's about making F1 American. It's about trying to make sure that we are activating (the F1 brand) properly with all these social media channels and opening up these revenue streams."
Even if the sport is presented in a more glitzy fashion, three-time world champion Lauda believes Singapore's night race along the city's streets will fit nicely into the new world order.
He said: "I cannot tell you about the new owners because I have never met them and I don't know them... but the Singapore race is just how the Americans like it - a lot of glamour, a lot of lights.
"It's an incredible race and it has to stay, for the sake of the sport."