It’s that time of the year again! When Formula 1 fans in India get excited about, and start planning their trip to, the annual Indian Grand Prix. I’ve been involved in motorsport for over a decade now, and to be absolutely honest, I didn’t think that the day when India would host a Formula 1 Grand Prix would arrive this early in the millennium. Don’t get me wrong, though, I’m not complaining!
Much like last year, Airtel and Vodafone will be out to hog the limelight much before the GP arrives. I do expect to see Red Bull Racing and Sahara Force India to make a noise closer to the Indian GP as well. You could add Renault to that equation too! Sponsors activating their various associations with the sport (via teams or drivers, or both), works in the favour of Indian Formula 1 fans. Participate in the exciting contests and promotions, which will undoubtedly be held in major cities across India, and you could well be on your way to the Indian Grand Prix with an all-expenses paid trip!
Airtel has taken a further step this year by associating with the Mercedes AMG team for the Indian Grand Prix, and I’m keen to see how their contest of ‘being a part of Mercedes pit crew’ pans out. Vodafone, on the other hand, brought Hamilton to Mumbai in mid-September for a demo car run. While Hamilton did a great job with the MP4-26, I was disappointed with the supporting activities that Vodafone planned in its ‘Speedfest’. By no means would an Indian Formula 1 fan accept ‘circus’ acts as part of a demo run!
However, back to the Indian GP, and if you’re yet to purchase your tickets to the race, here’s a quick note to refresh your memory on the best stands available out there. If you don’t mind splurging on the Formula 1 experience, the Main Grandstand is what I would recommend! A view of the start as well as the finish, and, of course, hearing the howl from the engines as the cars accelerate down the main straight at over 300km/h! Yes, a few people have argued that you barely get to see the cars at those speeds, but the added advantage of this stand is that you get to see the teams executing their lightning fast pit-stops too!
The other interesting stands would be the Premium and Classic North Stands. The first offering a view of the cars under-braking into Turn 1, and the second of the cars braking into, and accelerating out of, Turn 3. The Star East Stands 1, 2, and 3 offer a good view of the cars braking into (the DRS zone), and accelerating out of, Turn 4 – the chances of catching overtaking action is high here!
The other interesting corner to catch a Formula 1 car in action would be the banked right hander at Turns 10 and 11 – the Premium South Stand will offer this spectacle. Not to say that the other stands don’t offer a good view, but the ones I’ve recommended above offer something that most fans would want to witness. However, unlike last year, I hope that we witness a decent amount of overtaking!
Also, there will be many of you out there attending the GP for the first time, and, hence, I would recommend that you roam around the F1 Village and watch out for some of the entertaining acts that have been arranged between sessions. Plus, the JK and MRF racing events, with Indian participants, will be support races to the event once again, and will be fun to watch too. Just make sure you carry a cap and lots of sun block! GP events are also the best time to buy your stock of Formula 1 merchandise. There will be stores selling merchandise and accessories of the various teams, and I would expect Sahara Force India – India’s only F1 team – to be the one in most demand!
Now, by the time you read this article, I would expect that the Lewis Hamilton and McLaren issue is still to be settled, and here are my two bits on it. Just when Hamilton and McLaren appeared to be on course for an expected renewal, Mercedes came by and dangled a carrot in front of the 2008 World Champion that he naturally found hard to resist. Well, Mercedes offered more money, and also allowed Hamilton to keep his trophies (yes, McLaren don’t even let their drivers keep their actual trophies – replicas it is)!
All speculation aside, however, I would expect Hamilton to do the opposite of what most fans expect. While most don’t expect the near-perfect Hamilton-McLaren marriage to end, I believe that he is on his way to Mercedes – a manufacturer team, led by 8-times World Champion Ross Brawn. Brawn, as we all know, has been the architect of all of Schumachers titles, and I’m sure Hamilton will factor this into his decision. And, if Hamilton moves, there’ll be plenty of drivers to fill the vacancy at McLaren to partner Button next year. Both drivers from Sahara Force India and Sauber have impressed this year, and we could well see the return of Adrian Sutil as well. However, these interesting stories are for my next column.
The bigger story with Hamilton’s move to Mercedes could be Schumachers second retirement. I have a feeling that Schumacher might just want to extend his contract for one more season – with an option to race in 2014 as well. But, like his first retirement from Ferrari, I don’t think that he’ll have much say here either. This is about Mercedes having their eye on Hamilton, rather than giving Schumacher the option of sticking it out in F1 – so, time to bid a final adieu perhaps?