By Rajarshi Gupta at BIC
The Indian GP is in town. The approach road to the Buddh International Circuit is infested with police and security personnel, the signs on the expressway scream out only one address.
The practice sessions on Friday generated enough hype for the locals, who were happy enough to lap up all the action the second Indian Grand Prix had to offer. After its Indian debut last year, Formula One has quite clearly struck a chord with the country where many thought cricket could never be upstaged.
However, reasonably long ticket queues at various locations on the circuit suggested the mother of all games in India could soon wake up to some serious competition. Formula One fever has gripped the subcontinent.
For some, it is a desperate attempt to not miss Michael Schumacher race in his last season in F 1 while many others want to see if Sebastian Vettel can build on his lead over the weekend.
The Red Bull driver has stormed back to his magical touch after an indifferent start to the year. Experts attributed that to tyre changes and new rules and rest assured, the young German will be in full throttle over the Indian weekend.
Raghav Kumar, 32, a business executive from Noida, had parked himself at 7 am on Friday in his bid to buy tickets to the qualifying on Saturday and the final race on Sunday.
Having laid his hands on the ‘prize’, Kumar said his undiluted loyalty for Schumacher rubbed off on his two young sons, who swear by the iconic German racer even in a second coming that has been far removed from his red-hot form of the 1990’s.
“Schumi may not be half the driver he was before he retired but his name still rings a bell when I watch Formula One. I am lucky to get a chance to see him race for one final time here before he bids adieu and I wanted my sons to come and have a feel of the environment too,” Kumar said.
Schumacher on his part concedes a soft corner for India too: “It was a great experience to see so many people turn up for the race last year- it was rather emotional.
"Last year there was a large crowd and a significant proportion was rooting for us. I hope we can perform for the fans.”
Schumacher’s Mercedes teammate, Nico Rosberg echoed similar sentiments and hoped the duo would not let their Indian fans down.
Schumacher’s legend and Vettel’s youngish charm seem to be the main draw for F1 enthusiasts, even for those who candidly admitted to have never watched a race on TV.
“Forget coming to the tracks, I have never even watched a race on TV. I managed a Friday pass last year but this time I have access on all three days. I grew up in an era where Schumacher was hailed as the most popular sports star in the world- even though I never watched a full race; he will remain an F1 legend, like Sachin Tendulkar will be to cricket and Pele to football. So why miss this opportunity,” Meghna Singh, 28, a chartered accountant said, beaming.
For Vijay Aggarwal, a 21-year old college student, it was a great chance to see Vettel up close: “I am a die-hard Red Bull fan. I have spent a nervous year waiting for Vettel to roar back to form. With Mark Webber showing strong signs, I am sure Red Bull would win the championship this year too.”
The reasons might be different but they are all flocking to BIC. It should be another exciting weekend in Noida with the who’s who of the country converging for the most watched sport on the planet.