India Insight

Beyond the F1 buzz, India need more drivers

By Abhishek Takle

I knew India would fall in love with Formula One when I witnessed Lewis Hamilton do a demo drive in Bangalore last month in front of 40,000 massively excited fans thrilled by the assault on their senses . Our first grand prix at Noida last weekend only proved me right. The world’s finest drivers were given a taste of the adulation usually only handed out to Indian cricketers on home soil.

Even if the 95,000 race day attendance fell short of a sell-out at the $450 million Buddh International Circuit, it was still pretty impressive and  all the indications point to the sport growing and attracting ever larger crowds in the years ahead as the word spreads. My stand at Turn 3 was certainly packed with fans, the majority of whom were Indians and decked out in Ferrari red.

Unsurprisingly for a cricket-crazy nation taking its first, baby steps into the world of global motorsport, most of the fans did not appear to be close followers of motor racing.

However, their enthusiasm more than made up for that.

That intoxicating sound of a 2.4 litre V8 engine at full throttle, the addictive smell of petrol and scorch of tortured rubber as drivers locked up into the tight Turn 3 had them on the edge of their seats.

They cheered loud and hard when race-winner Sebastian Vettel drove past on the victory lap and acknowledged with equally wild applause seven-times world champion Michael Schumacher’s dogged drive to fifth from eleventh on the grid.

“Mother Monster” Lady Gaga set to surprise India with F1 show

By Annie Banerji

Curiosity peaked as international pop icon Lady Gaga kept the media waiting before her press conference In New Delhi. Would she don cow-like headgear (to commemorate her visit to India) or would she be wearing a dress made of stuffed animals again?

Usually known for her artistic public appearances coupled with an outlandish fashion statement, the “Born This Way” singer, whose real name is Stefani Germanotta, kept it safe — wearing a rather conservative Indian-designer dress and her hair dyed in the tricolours of the Indian flag, perhaps keeping in mind India’s conservative and religious social fabric.

The multi-Grammy award winner is in New Delhi on a four-day trip to perform for India’s maiden Formula 1 Grand Prix at an invitation-only show in a five-star hotel after the final race on Sunday.

Playing spoilsport with Formula One?

Despite the Force India team taking second place at the podium at the Belgian Grand Prix there is no rethinking in the sports ministry on its view that Formula One is not enough of a sport.

Sports minister M.S. Gill congratulated Vijay Mallya on his team’s win but labelled Formula One as ‘expensive entertainment’.

The sports ministry has refused approval to the promoters of Formula 1 in India, JPSK Sports, to pay 1.7 billion rupees to the Formula One Administration for the proposed Indian Grand Prix of 2011.

Force India podium, giant leap for Indian motor sport?

India can boast of taking a major stride in Formula One after Italian driver Giancarlo Fisichella drove from pole to second on the podium at the Belgium Grand Prix on Sunday.

The first points for the team owned by India’s liquor and airlines baron Vijay Mallya was a pleasant surprise, the team having failed to make an impact since it was launched ahead of the 2008 season.

The Indian media lapped up the news, indicating that F1′s popularity in India will only grow more rapidly as Indian fans gradually embrace the team as theirs.

Formula One – Singapore sets high standard for India

I have to admit I am not a Formula One fan but I did jump to the offer of going to Singapore for the floodlit race and am IToyota Formula One driver Timo Glock of Germany drives past the Old Court House at the Singapore F1 Grand Prix at the Marina Bay circuit glad I went! The experience of watching a race live is incomparable to what you get on television especially since this one was a night street-race and an Indian team was competing (Never mind the fact that one of the team’s drivers crashed out mid way and the other ended the race in the last spot.)

Felipe Massa drives off with the fuel hose still attached to his car at the Singapore F1 Grand PrixAs a non-F1 enthusiast it was only when I was at the race that I learned how much the team matters in a sport that seems like a one-man show. It is the mechanics, the analysts and the managers that make or break the race for the team driver. A case in point is top qualifier Felipe Massa who lost his lead in the race because he was given an incorrect green signal while he was in the pit refueling and drove off with the fuel pipe in his car only to drive back and lose those precious seconds.

Hysteria apart, the Grand Prix showed the tiny city-country of Singapore’s unbelievable capability to host 300,000 people over three days with impeccable organization, top security and an entertainment appeal… It had some like me pledging to come back for more!