Previewing the Formula 1 Indian Grand Prix

This post originally appeared in The Youth Express and is intended as an intro for new F1 enthusiasts.

Formula 1 finally comes to India in October 2011. Ever since I started following the sport in 1999, it’s always seemed like F1 lovers are a tribe, where the word connotes a loyal, passionate but really tiny band of like-minded individuals. Meeting in sports bars every race weekend with pitchers of beer, ribbing each other about their driver’s performances and holding forth on everything that’s wrong with F1 today as soon as their driver crashes his car or gets overtaken.

And now these famous, coveted cars come to India. Not as stationary exhibits surrounded by models in a Kingfisher exhibit or events like Red Bull’s Speed Link in Mumbai, which only offer a tantalizing taste of the real thing. Actual, live, screaming, roaring entities making short work of 5.14 kilometers of asphalt laid down at the Buddh Circuit. This is a special event for racing enthusiasts and that’s why it’s reasonable to have certain expectations.

Expect entertainment. It’s a glamorous sport so there will be international celebrities, filmstars, Page 3 favorites and sports personalities. If you’re in the General access area, you can see them on one of the countless screens around the circuit. If you’re in the grandstands, you may be sitting next to one. If you have a Paddock Pass, you’ll probably be on the screen.

Expect a spectacle. The circuit looks amazing. It has two straights allowing the cars to touch 300-plus kmph, overtaking opportunities and a Sepang-style loop allowing grandstand visitors to take in as much of the cars as possible. *Ahem*, lest we forget, there will be pitbabes too. Lots of pitbabes. Vijay Mallya, bless his shahtoosh socks, will make sure of that. (Ladies, the drivers are a handsome lot. There’s something for everyone.)

Expect rivalry. Hamilton, Alonso and Vettel are three very aggressive drivers who will fight tooth, nail and degrading Pirelli tire compounds for every point, irrespective of where they stand when the circus comes to India. It’s always nice to have drivers who make an ego issue out of winning. It’s good for us spectators.

Expect grassroots interest. I hope this event will help move the sport out of the arcane circles of geeks trading engine rpms to a wider audience who can appreciate the thrill of man-machine hybrids competing against each other at terrifying speeds that test the breaking point of human endurance. F1 also suffers from being a difficult sport to indulge in as a pastime unlike, say, cricket. Jaypee should really use this opportunity to share the prohibitive costs of racing and organize events aimed at identifying young driving talent in the country.

Expect a scam. They signed the F1 deal with the IOC, which was headed by a certain Mr. Kalmadi. (OK, I’m kidding.)

Expect NOISE. Carry earplugs. Please. Don’t let your machismo fool you into thinking you can put up with the 18000 rpm roar of a F1 engine.

But most of all, expect to have your heart quicken, breath hasten, eyes squint, adrenaline rush as you hear the first car coming around the corner, carrying behind it a typhoon of air, sound, determination, rivalry and glorious possibilities. As it passes by it will try to dominate you with its presence. This is when you petrolheads should shout as loud as you can, hoping your voices are strong enough to overpower the cars – just to let them know, you’re loving it!

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