The last week of October saw the Indian media and about 10% of the country’s population excited about one of the biggest sporting spectacle that the country had to witness. The beginning of the week was marred with media coverage on whether the country needs the sport. Well even though I still remain a die-hard fan of cricket, there is nothing wrong to promote sports which show good prospect and a future. An article from Shobha De on the very same topic outlined why choosing India as a destination made good economic sense to the F1 boss. In India, we love to lament about the fact that we have a sizeable percentage of the population below the poverty line and such endeavors is gross negligence by the organizers and parties involved of the country’s economic situation. But when it comes to doing something about it… well, let’s just say they don’t do much! I am sure the “hike in petrol prices” was done keeping the impoverished Indian’s best interests in mind!!
The reason I say 10% (which is definitely not a accurate number and I am using it as a figure of speech) because the country’s top sport still remains as “cricket“. Formula 1 is followed in this country with a passion among the enthusiasts but there is a majority (even the ones who were present at the circuit on Race Day) who don’t understand the sport. The simplistic belief is that the fastest car and the one finishing the race ahead of everyone wins. To an extent that is definitely correct but when the drivers and constructor’s championship, qualifying, practice, drive-throughs etc. are added to the mix… It probably becomes an overdose for the layman!
I have been a big fan of Formula for nearly a decade now and couldn’t obviously pass up the opportunity to witness this spectacle. And boy… it was totally worth it!
Probably the biggest glitch during the three days was the stray dog having a field day during the practice session on Friday and receiving more media attention for the next 5 minutes than any other hotshot at the circuit. It is really a cause for concern having an animal on track where cars reach speeds in excess of 300kmph and a big hazard to the driver’s safety! When so much effort had gone into laying out the massive circuit, probably a bit of more pain could have been taken to ensure that stray animals weren’t doing a track inspection. They have safety cars for that! However, stray animals on track at the Greater Nodia cicuit is not the world’s first. Bruno Senna had retired from the GP2 sprint race at Istanbul Park in 2008 after hitting a stray dog and damaging the front suspension. However, it was surprising to note that many of my fellow countrymen decided to pass a judgmental opinion that the race was doomed… there would other glitches during qualifying and race day and yada yada yada… The social networks especially Twitter were brimming with a bunch of these smart-alec and self-deprecating tweets. Some of them were in good humor which did give me a good laugh but you could very easily distinguish the downright pessimists/cynics from the rest!
Personally I regretted not having bought a parking pass. An oversight which my friend gladly reminded me on every opportunity he got on the two days that we were at the track. As you can see from the picture above, that there was a loooonnngg queue! This was the place where folks like me who didn’t bother to get a parking pass (I honestly didn’t know I would regret it so much) had to park their cars which was probably a good 15kms (9 miles) from the stand that I was sitting at and involved two bus hops!! It took us 4 hours to get to the circuit and 4 hours to get back!! A journey time that almost gets me to London from Bangalore. The arrangements to control traffic could definitely have been better just as the forecast had been made that there would be a large influx of vehicles at the venue. It was rumored that over 100,000 tickets were sold for Race Day and after seeing the number of people thronging the bus stands to get to the parking area post-race, I didn’t want to disagree. Any mega event in this country comes with a mass of people (owing to the country’s population) and what arrangements are sufficient in most countries to control a crowd would be grossly inadequate in India. And this is just not due to the numbers but some of it can be attributed to the mob mentality of the crowd here. Take the Delhi Metallica concert fiasco as an example! Given the fact that no major crowd related incident occurred in the three days, you definitely want to congratulate the authorities involved and the hard work put in by them.
It was surreal to see Schumacher race around the track (even though it wasn’t a Ferrari) or even a Ferrari car zooming past the stand that I was in. I could just go on. I now have one item less on my bucket list!! I made a mental note ten minutes into the race that I would get a camcorder next time I am attending a F1 race as still photography just doesn’t cut it! The cars are too darn fast and photography is not my strong suit, which means that the pictures taken of the these speed demons by me are not getting me any prizes.
I was glad that I travelled over 2000kms (1250 miles) to watch the first inaugural Grand Prix at the Buddh International Circuit. Post race, all racers did have good things to say about the track barring the dust which was there. There were earnest attempts made by the officials to minimize the effect of the dust but in an area where you can throw a stone and hit a construction site, keeping the track dust-free is probably more difficult than keeping the dog out!
There will be more races in the future at the Buddh International Circuit but there will never be another F1 inaugural race! And for my ultra-pessimistic countrymen… Yes, we live in a bureaucratic environment rift with nepotism, corruption and drudgery in daily life but when we put our minds to make something happen in this environment, it does happen!! The first Indian Grand Prix is such an example!
After the CWG debacle, this was probably an example of how things can get done in this country!
Ferrari fans have seen better days. The team that was known for it’s brilliant strategizing for it’s Pit Stops made a gross miscalculation which probably would lead Alonso to live by the motto “Try, Try and you will succeed”. What promised to be a humdinger of a battle between Vettel and Alonso turned out be a one-sided affair.
I am a die-hard Ferrari fan but the Red Bull team has outplayed the Prancing Horse on multiple circuits this season. But it looks like Red Bull did give Webber and Vettel wings (as the Red Bull ad claims) and they managed to pull out stellar performances on more than one occasion.
I guess Felipe Massa would also feel a bit crest-fallen because he did give up a career win (read: German Grand Prix) so that Alonso could have a better shot to win the driver’s championship. Massa must have felt an odd sense of deja-vu when he was asked to let Alonso pass in Germany (ironical) but this time around the Spaniard was not so lucky in Abu Dhabi.
Congratulations to the world’s youngest F1 Champion and commiserations to the team that I supported throughout the season. Better luck next season!
Read the article on ESPN here.