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.