By Chia Han Keong
By midnight on Monday, Singapore will have completed its first five-year contract to host Formula One Grand Prix races.
By all accounts, it has been a rip-roaring success.
F1, led by supremo Bernie Ecclestone, has already labelled the Singapore race as one of its "jewels in the crown".
The unique night race creates a glittering atmosphere that no other race circuit on the F1 calendar can provide.
The race drivers, meanwhile, love the tough challenge of the circuit - negotiating the 20-odd turns per lap under artificial lighting, with little margin for error, and dealing with the stifling heat and humidity for almost two hours of racing.
"Phenomenally intense," was the verdict of Lewis Hamilton, winner of the 2009 edition, on the race circuit last week.
Tough as the race is, it has not demoralised the race drivers.
Far from it; it has inspired them to train hard to be fit for the race, as former champion Jenson Button showed when he arrived earlier than usual this year to get a headstart in physical training.
The Singapore Government loves the race because of the extraordinary promotional mileage it racks up in potential economic and business partnerships, simply by making the nation the centre of the motor- sport world's attention for one week.
What about Singaporeans?
Yes, there have been grumbles by retail businesses affected by the weeklong road closures.
And, yes, some non-fans have wondered aloud why millions have been spent on a "frivolous" sporting event, and not on more meaningful social projects.
But the majority have taken to the race, eagerly snapping up the tickets. Even those who have not lapped up the motor sport beam with pride at seeing the city area transformed into a shimmering circuit of high-octane action amid a backdrop of city landmarks.
With love on all fronts for the race extravaganza, it seems odd that talks to extend the hosting contract beyond this year have taken so long.
Discussions began last year but, up till yesterday, F1 and the Singapore organisers had yet to reach an official agreement.
Should Singapore call an end to negotiations, it would still need to serve a two-race notice period, meaning that next year's and 2014's races will proceed no matter what.
Ecclestone is known to be a tough negotiator, but it is hard not to feel that his F1 business stands to lose out more should the Singapore race come to an end.
F1 stands to lose its only night race - a race it had proposed to Asian countries for a long time, before Singapore took up the huge logistical challenge.
Having a night race means that fans in Europe are wide awake to enjoy the dazzling spectacle.
Without it, F1 loses a sizeable chunk of its European TV audience when its Asian leg commences.
Singapore's success also gives F1 considerable leverage in persuading other Asian countries to switch to night racing too.
Losing the Singapore GP would, therefore, hurt F1's chances of convincing others to follow the night-race format.
Singapore also stands to lose if it says no to more F1 Grands Prix, not just in terms of the thrilling action and entertainment associated with the street circuit annually.
Its reputation as a highly desirable, cosmopolitan city would take a hit.
Some businesses, like the hotels around Marina Bay, may flounder.
Still, as the nation does not have a major car industry to support, the economic costs in the event it stops hosting the F1 race are, perhaps, less daunting.
And, with the Sports Hub ready by 2014, the nation will have a spanking new arena to host other sporting events. So, much as it may be unwilling to part with its "crown jewel", Singapore would take the loss better than F1.
Still, everyone is hopeful that a bitter break-up will not materialise and, chances are high that, come 2015, the glittering streets of Marina Bay will continue to see top drivers sweating it out for the Singapore GP title.
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