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Sasha Rafi: ‘Quiet engines have changed the F1 experience, but it was a good move for the sport’

The marketing director of Formula 1 Grand Prix Singapore has admitted the loss of the car engines’ roar has affected fans’ experience of the sport  – but that overall the change has been good for the brand’s image.

Sasha Rafi, who has helped spearhead the event’s marketing for the past 10 years, argued the “softening” of the engine noise over the past four years shows “innovation and adaptability” despite ongoing complaints from fans  – and even Lewis Hamilton – that it has ruined the spectacle.

Responding to a question about the change the inaugural Mumbrella Asia Travel Marketing Summit in Singapore, Rafi said: “There were various reasons for the softening of the engines as I like to call it. Environmental was one of them, but a lot of it had to do with the engines themselves. With innovation, the engines just became quieter.

“Yes it did take something away from the experience as you would expect – you know having the wind through your hair with sound. But I personally think it did do the sport good by being a little more environmentally cautious. More importantly it did the sport good because it showed innovation and adaptability with the times.

“To some extent it did affect the fan experience. You just have to give many reasons for people to come: not just banking on the sound. And it’s not that soft.”

During the on-stage discussion, Rafi also discussed the recent end to F1’s iconic ‘Grid Girls’, who bore the sponsorship of Singtel for the first few years of the Singapore event, and then more Singapore Airlines from 2014 onwards.

“For me, I see the Grid Girls as ambassadors – it is a sponsorship entitlement – and I see them as ambassadors of the event,” she said.

“For Singapore Airlines, they are not just ambassadors for the airlines, they are an icon of the Republic. They are the image we put up to the rest of the world.

“If you see in recent weeks, there have been certain circuits that have made the decision not to have Grid Girls and then decided to go ahead and have [them]. Russia said: ‘We’re going to have Grid Girls because we have the prettiest girls in the world’. I thought: ‘That’s the most amazing statement’ and just leave it at that.”

She added: “We will have to see how things pan out. International Grid Kids is something, but we will have to see whether they are a replacement or a complement.”

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