The excitement of attending my first ever GP was surely getting the more out of me as the day of travel came closer. I knew from Day 1 that i’ll be alone in this journey but never deter my plans, anyhow I had to be there for the first ever Indian GP and I did that. The journey was fairly mixed for me, filled with excitement and reservations. This weekend review is a bit different from all the others as i’ll write about my experiences and also the sessions.
I left for Delhi on Wednesday in a train. I reached the station fairly on time and boarded the train which was quite an empty one owing to the Diwali festival. While checking the names on the list, I found Avishek Dan’s name along with his father’s, I knew they were on the same train but never thought they are in the same compartment. For the first day, I was quite relieved to get some company on train, we chatted a lot on F1 and various other topics. We reached Delhi at around 10:30 in the morning, Avishek went on his way to his hotel and I went my way. I was a bit taken a back while arriving at the hotel (can tell you if with family, we won’t stay in the hotel, I stayed) as it was bit below my expectation but what the heck? I could manage for 4-5 days in there with ease.
Next up for me was to collect my GP tickets as I had won them via a contest by the Jaypee people (would have bought it, if I had not won it) and I was told that I had to go to Jaypee Sports Complex in Greater Noida to collect it, had no idea where it was. But that Jaypee person helped me get there easily travelling in Metro, Bus & Auto (Tuk Tuk). As we reached there, we came to know that it is the venue for F1 Afterparty and we got the first hand visuals of the set up which looked amazing. We also saw the Resort & Spa where most the drivers and team people were to stay. I must say that long journey was a bit fruitful in the end. Though the day didn’t ended there, later on I came to know the shuttle service tickets are sold out and I had no transport to get the circuit. In the end I had to hire a car to Knowledge Park 2 and board the free shuttle service to circuit.
(click to enlarge)Friday:
I woke up quite early in the morning to get to the circuit on time. In the morning hours the road were quite empty and so I reached Knowledge Park 2 pretty much on time and was happy to see many more fans out there, more so was happy to see that there were buses to take us (sigh of relief). I got a company of a foreigner who lived in Mumbai but hailed from California, USA and we had a lovely chat as he shared his previous experiences of attending Indycar & F1 which was nice to hear. As we entered the premises of the circuit, my heart was beating like anything was very excited to hop into the in-shuttle bus and get inside the stands. Finally, I made to my stand which was fairly empty, reached just 5 minutes before the session was to begin.
As expected it was Karthikeyan, Chandhok and the Force India’s car were first to come out at the circuit which was a historic moment in Indian motorsport. To add, it was very nice to see Chandhok though only driving in FP1 set the first timed lap. I was sitting near Turn 10 & Turn 11 corner, I could see Turn 9 & Turn 12 as well. As I heard from the drivers, T10 & T11 corner could be one to watch out for. The first thing which struck me was the enormous sound of the car (generated from the engine and diffuser), it just blew me away as I wasn’t expecting such a sound at all but it soon became music for me as I was loving it. Cars were zooming past me, it was hard to take pictures but managed to click some good one’s (all from my mobile) and few videos as well.
The day started with the Ferrari of Alonso stopping right opposite to me. He got out and sat below the TV screen for about 10 minutes before he left for the pits. It was nice to see a driver so close and the reaction when something like this happen, though he was fairly calm. The rest of the session went quite smoothly for all. Alguersuari did slide at T9 which was not quite visible for me. As the first session came to close, it was Hamilton who topped the time sheets with Vettel & Webber behind. Both our Force India did well with Sutil at P8 & Di Resta at P11. As for Indian drivers Chandhok finished at P20 & Karthikeyan at P22.
(click to enlarge)FP2:
Post FP1, I headed out to meet Ankur Garhwal, was nice to finally meet him in person. At the track, action was going on with Practice session of the support races. After having lunch, I was back at the stands for the second session to begin with. For the first day, there wasn’t much crowd and I hoped it will change on Saturday & Sunday. Cars came out one by one and we could hear that lovely sound once again. The session was smooth for most of team, though there was quite a lot of dust off the racing line. The only major incident in the session, was that of Ambrosio at T12 where he lost his wheel after hitting the barriers. Ferrari was on top by the end of the day and session as Massa edged out Vettel & Alonso. Again it was a good day for Force India at their home ground with Sutil ending at P7 & Di Resta at P9. As for Karthikeyan, he ended at P24.
While returning back I dropped by the F1 Village, just to take a look around. There were quite many merchandise stalls and even exotic cars stalls. The real adventure began then after as the buses to take us to Knowledge Park 2 just weren’t there, we could only see people around. After pushing and pulling, at least I managed to get into one of the bus and reached safely to my car and back to hotel to take some rest.
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Another fine morning in Delhi, bit of chill in the air. Today, I was travelling with Ankur’s friends mom and aunt, glad I had some company to the circuit. We reached the circuit quite early, an hour you can say. I then saw the pre-session preps going with Safety car doing round and marshalls clearing the track. Once all done, cars came out rolling for the final time before the first ever Qualifying & Race. The session went with not much drama, just in the end Senna slid at T11, almost kissed the barriers but managed to come out safely. Earlier Di Resta had also slid at T10 in the coloured run-off. The Red Bulls took charge as Vettel ended at P1 with Button & Webber behind. Another superb performance by home team Force India as Di Resta finished at P7 & Sutil at P9. And the home driver Karthikeyan ended at P22 edging out his team-mate & one Virgin.
Post the FP3 session, I headed out to go at the F1 Village with Ankur & his friends. We hung around there and checked few items which were quite expensive. As we got there, I spotted Sanjeev Palar (ESPN/Star Sports F1 Director) and also Jatin Sapru (ESPN/Star Sports Presenter), it was nice to catch hold of some big personalities. I couldn’t buy much as the merchandise were quite expensive . We hung about for an hour and then headed back to our stands for the qualifying to begin, were damn excited.
I got late in returning from the F1 Village & reached just seconds before Q1 started. It was a mini F1 going for me to reach my seat on time to watch Q1. I looked around a bit and could see a larger crowd than what I saw for practice sessions. It was all noisy again as the cars crossed the turns for the first ever Indian GP qualifying. There was lot of buzz among people but again knowledge wise, it wasn’t encouraging. The atmosphere was totally different in qualifying, as one by one car went zooming past us. Naturally, all were trying to get that extra second to beat their competitor. But as known, all the new teams bowed out though Karthikeyan impressed with beating both the Virgins. Both Force India made it through. I was happy that when people saw the Force India cars, they were cheering a lot.
After few minutes break, the session was on for the second leg of qualifying. The helicopter was hovering upon catching few cars. Again, most of the session went quite well. Only Petrov slid at T11 corner, perhaps over-shot the braking point. Notably, Schumacher bowed out along with the Renault drivers. Sutil made it to Q3, though Di Resta with a bit of disappointment finished at P13 (started P12). I had to explain the qualifying rules to quite many in the stands, some listened carefully and thanked and some with a grin but I was happy to help them.
Here it was, the last session for the day before Sunday’s epic race. The cars rolled out immediately, you can hear the engines sound even if they are at T6-T7. As expected the battle was on between Vettel & Hamilton but once again the 2011 World Champion found a way to get that extra second and get the pole position. Neither Sutil nor the STR guys set a timed lap and thus Sutil was starting from P8, good effort in the end. It was a poor end for Massa who hit a kerb at T9 and thereby stalling his car, much to the delight of fans who could see the car so closely. With that the first ever qualifying session was done with and as expected Vettel emerged as the pole sitter.
The ride back to the hotel begun as the quali session was over, didn’t want to get into a commotion like last day. On the way back, took a different route which was better as I managed to see the pit building & grandstand from the front side. Also saw the main office & paddock entry zone (wish I could have entered, maybe next year). To our delight, the transport back to Knowledge Park was smooth today, bit here and there is always there but was safely back to hotel after dodging a traffic.
Finally, the day arrived for which we have all been waiting for. Me, Ankur & his friends decided to go to the circuit early and hang around at the F1 Village. It was a big day at motorsports and we fans had to be there in full support of the event. There were many cricketers & Bollywood stars coming, most notably Sachin Tendulkar who was going to raise the Chequred flag at the end of the race. Since early morning I could see quite a lot of cars on the way to circuit, which was a good sign. After reaching, we hung around there for quite many hours, I got a Force India flag from a helpful person. There again we met Sanjeev Palar, this time we had a small chit chat, he seems to be a nice person. While walking a Japanese TV camera guys spotted us with the flags and took some shots of us, hope we were aired on Japanese TV (even if it were for few seconds). Later on we came to know it was the famous Fuji TV guys. Even the BBC camera person was around taking some shots.
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We then headed to our respective stands, ate our lunch and in the stands for the Drivers Parade which started at 1:30PM. This was actually the first time I was going to watch the whole of the parade, the crowd was a huge one in there. Finally, the drivers came by in the lovely vintage cars with Narain Karthikeyan leading from front. The best was Mark Webber carrying the Indian flag, and Fernando Alonso completed the parade. These little things makes us fans so happy, the loudest cheers went for Karthikeyan, Force India drivers, Alonso, Button & of course Schumacher. Post the parade in half an hours time, the cars headed out for the installation laps, another thing seeing for the first time. But the most proudest moment was when the Indian National Anthem was played, just after the minute silence for Dan Wheldon & Marco Simoncelli. It was a bit surreal when the anthem was played, truly the best moment.
All was set, 24 cars on the grid, for the first ever Airtel Indian Grand Prix to flag off. As the commentator say, I repeated them in my mind, “As the five red lights, illuminate the inaugural Airtel Indian GP is a go...” We were seeing the first lap melee on the huge screen as Vettel took the lead with others trying to come out safely. I saw Barrichello limping with a front wing damage as he crossed us. Its very hard to keep track of the standings while watching from the stands but I did all the guess work which was somewhat correct. I could even guess the battles going on, the first was between Vettel & Button followed by Webber & Alonso, then Massa & Hamilton and Rosberg & Schumacher in front. For midfield it was Sutil, Perez & Petrov for final championship points.
When Massa retired, I was happy that he was taken to the pits from my corner side, saw him with his helmets on. Even his car was taken from my side and I managed to see the Ferrari pretty closely. As for the view of the track as day went by, it was getting more and more hazy. I spotted the marbles on the track but couldn’t see the dust on track (which I saw on TV when I returned). There were no over-taking at my side, just the front cars lapping the back markers, but the battles for positions were quite intense. When sitting there, we don’t even realize that the race is over. Same thing happened with me, time passed so quickly, just like the cars passing us in a fraction of a second. It was indeed Vettel who stamped his authority at the new circuit with a first win as the double world champion. For Indians, Sutil ended at P9 gaining two more points in the fight for P6 at the CC and Karthikeyan finished at P17 beating his team-mate. We can say a fantastic race for Karthikeyan taking the few running he got before the race.
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All in all it was a fantastic race, awesome experience and a great weekend. Once again the things which spoiled most of our mood was transport and this time traffic as well, 95000 people leaving at the same time is quite a lot. But I reached my hotel safely in the end. Two things which the organisers can keep in mind and improve upon for 2012 is the transport & traffic situation along with perhaps a bit moderate pricing of food. But I would also like to congratulate Jaypee Group for bringing this event in India and making it a success, it was seriously some effort. I hope this race will create a larger fan base and the facilities at BIC will help nurture more Indian drivers to reach the F1 level.
I was still in the F1 mood Monday morning, my mind was buzzing with the cars sound. I was greedy for more but perhaps will have to save for the greed for 2012. It was the travel day again as my train was to leave the station at 5PM, I had nothing to do so reached the station quite early. I got another surprise in train as two people in compartment were as well returning after seeing the race. I was quite happy to know that quite many people did go from Kolkata as well. It was a smooth journey back home, I reached Kolkata safely. Thus my journey ended, must say it was a new experience for me and I enjoyed every bit of it. I ask all the F1 fans to at least for once go and watch a race LIVE, its very different from TV.
To view more of my pictures from the event click here!
Meanwhile i have five videos to share from the event:
To view more of my pictures from the event click here!
Meanwhile i have five videos to share from the event:
1) FP2 (3:01)