'Awestruck by India's F1 passion'

McLaren drivers Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button have been astounded by the interest amongst fans and racing enthusiasts in India.

Lewis Hamilton takes a track tour

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By Shashank Kishore

This weekend promises to be as exciting as it can get for Indian motorsport fans. In a country where driving around at even at half the speed of the formula one car is a dream, given the traffic, it would be a visual treat to see these cars zip across the track.

Speaking at a press conference to welcome four lucky Vodafone contest winners into team McLaren for the race weekend, driver Lewis Hamilton was visibly excited. The British driver, who is making his fifth trip to India, said he felt blessed with all the love and adulation.

"India has always given me a feeling of warmth. I've interacted with a lot of fans through the course of my visits and the passion is just mind-blowing," he said.

Vodafone's association with Team McLaren has seen Hamilton visit Mumbai and Chennai for Go-Karting challenges. The driver was, however, amazed with the turn-out in Bangalore during a road-show in September.

"Not in the wildest of dreams did I expect to see 25,000 people turn up for the speed-show at NICE Road in Bangalore. They cheer and the applause is something I will never forget," said a beaming Hamilton.

When asked about cricket, Hamilton was quick to jump in. "I played with fans in New Delhi last year and it was great fun. During my younger days, I played for my school, and was decent at it. I just love to hit the ball hard like Freddie Flintoff," he quipped.

Meanwhile, his team-mate Jenson Button, who is making his first pit-stop in India, soaked in the festivities. "I arrived on Diwali day. The city just looked like a dream with all the lights and color. I had a great view of the firework too," said Button.

When asked about what he was looking forward to the most after arriving in New Delhi, the candid Button said, "The food has been amazing but I was equally spell-bound by the tuk-tuk ride around the race track. That was a lot of fun," he added.

Both drivers were unanimous in their assessment of the Buddh International Circuit. "The track is fantastic. Had a feel of it on the simulators, but it's different to actually be there. The 270-degree turn is one of the toughest in the F1 map, and that is going to be challenging," they opined.

With a host of celebrities like Shah Rukh Khan, Sachin Tendulkar and Lady Gaga expected to grace the occasion, the F1 spectacle in India couldn't have asked for a better advert. Let the race begin!

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