Motor car racing was a natural consequence that followed the invention of the motor car. Man has always had a desire for speed. The car was invented in Western Europe, mass produced in America and developed from a luxury, to a necessity to a necessary luxury, if you know what I mean. Car racing also developed in the West, however, in the last few years we have had a huge surge of interest in motorsport throughout Asia.
I watched F1 on TV for many years till, in 2007, we went for our first F1 race to Sepang in Kuala Lumpur. Malaysia. We were left gasping at the spectacle. The sheer noise of the cars is the most striking and lasting feature. Adrenaline rushes thru your veins the moment you hear the sound. You may be a kilometre away, walking towards the track when the sound hits you and leaves you in a terribly excited state. At Malaysia we were novices, we have now learnt that you don’t take a bus to get to the circuit, which, due to its very nature, is located miles out of the city. The next time was Istanbul, Turkey where we had our own car. This is what we did in Shanghai as well. All our races thus far were modern Asian tracks (I am qualifying Turkey as Asia for the purpose of this blog, though they may well disagree). Great facilities, lots of space, lots of food, lots of stalls and endless entertainment while you wait for the race to start. Then, we went to Barcelona which was a huge disappointment facility wise. An old stadium, poor access and a poor experience. I thought I would not go to another F1 in Western Europe again, after all, there are so many new tracks opening in Asia – Korea, Abu Dhabi, Bahrain and now Noida!! But, the bug bit and we made it to Monza. The home of Ferrari, scarlet fever, the Tifosi, what an evocative image for a fan.
Everything in Milan was geared around the F1. Hotels had packages, they had higher rates, shows, and promos what have you. On Friday before the race we were sitting at a bar in the Duomo area when on the next table there were 4 older men in Rugby World Cup T Shirts. They were South African as was apparent from their accents and their T Shirts. Soon we became pals and it turned out they were here for the race too. One of them was a Mercedes Benz dealer in SA and the whole lot had flown into Frankfurt, hired a car and were in Milan. They drove thru Parma, ate ham, drove thru Marranelo the home of Ferrari and recounted with sheer delight the fact that the Municipal office in Modena has at its very centre, a Ferrari!! That was fun.
To put things in perspective, a normal F1 race has about 125,000 fans attending, most by car or bus, since, as I said earlier, F1 tracks are located in the backs-of-beyond. You have to have deep logistics just for people and vehicle management at the track. I am not even dealing with the hotels, the facilities for the teams, airports to fly in the teams, cars, equipment, container trucks, computer equipment, catering, hospitality, well, I could go on and on. Monza is a small town some 13 kms out of the centre of Milan. The track is in the centre of what is known as Parc De Monza an 800 hectare green park, much like Hyde Park in London except much, much larger. This itself is a lesson for all greens, `jholawallas', do gooders, NGO types in India. Here is one of the most extravagant sports, with the world’s richest people, causing noise pollution, burning precious fossil fuels, with a mega giant carbon footprint, all happening in an 800 hectare green belt. Not a word of protest and its happened 81 times in the past.
Monza is holding its 82nd F1 race. I am sorry to say the experience for the fan getting and leaving the circuit is truly challenging. Well this is Italy, logic is not part of their DNA, design and engineering is. We had to catch a local train from Milan to Monza. Getting tickets was a drama. 3 counters and 1000 people. Then from Monza station you get a free shuttle bus which drops you off in the grand Parc. You then walk for 40 minutes at a fair clip, in the sun, thru fields, to reach the circuit. Here, the gates are kept minimally open, thus a classis bottleneck. It was fairly exhausting and an exercise in patience. The only reason why nothing bad happens is that Europeans are generally good natured and allow you person space. Getting back is repeating the whole saga. This you have to do twice, Saturday for qualifying and Sunday for race day. I believe that this experience is only one quarter of the mayhem we will have at Noida.
So my thoughts are that it makes no sense anymore to go to a F1 race in Europe with its `thakela’ circuits and infrastructure. The same situation exists with airports. Before Heathrow T5 came up the airports in the East – HK, Sin, BKK were all mind boggling. My wonderful theory was neatly pierced by Her Highness who said, “the only circuits that you have not had private transport are the European ones, that is why you don’t like them.” Since the Queen can do no wrong, I have to say she has a point.
However, all that became academic the moment you entered the circuit and hear that piercing whine of an engine revving at a mind numbing 18,000 RPM. You cannot even imagine how much that is. If you are driving at 60 kmph and you look at your tachometer in your car it will show 1500 RPM. Imagine, 18,000 RPM. It’s awesome. A Formula 1 car idles at more than 1500 RPM!!! All frustration, despair, doubts immediately disappeared.
We had got for ourselves Kangaroo TV or what is now known as Fanvision. This is a small hand held device linked to the F1 feed. So you get on the device, radio commentary, TV images, and stats on the race, live and in real time. This is truly a great piece of equipment and something you absolutely must get when going for an F1 race.
Our seats were along the start line. I have taken a few photos of how the excitement builds, or to put it differently, how an F! Race is a built up for us as punters and them as drivers.
Everybody must go and see an F1 race at least once. It’s a stunning experience.
|The long walk thru the Parc|
|Seated in the grandstand|
|HRN the Queen of Kutch with Fanvision - her personal TV set|
|Marching band playing, would you believe it, Louie Louie|
|Precisely placing the position boards|
|Grid girls, holding the position board and a flag of the drivers nationality|
|The start of the build up|
|The first equipment rolls up|
|The car arrives with mechanics, guests and press|
|The whole filled grid|
|All extra people out, only crucial start up mechanics|
|Grid cleared before the warm up lap|
|The mad rush to the pits by mechanics after the cars are on warm up lap|
|At the start|
|And they are off|