Millions watched it, but we were there!
That’s what a friend’s Facebook status said late Sunday evening. The first Formula 1 race in India had just ended. The air was still dusty, you could smell the burnt rubber, and we wanted more!
Barely two months ago, the Buddh International Circuit was still a huge pile of dirt. There was uncertainty in the air about whether the first Indian GP was ever going to take place. I took my chances, booked my flight tickets early. And then, the tickets went on sale the next day! Two days later, more than 15,000 tickets were sold and the South Natural Stand was already sold out! It was going to happen, F1 in India!
I left to Delhi on the 28th, by a very early morning flight. Delhi’s weather was surprisingly very much like what I love and am accustomed to in Bangalore. The only signs of being out of place was being in the center of what is an insanely huge terminal, Delhi’s IGI T3. Wow.
After a few phone calls, I was headed to Ghaziabad, Uttar Pradesh, where accommodation for us had been arranged. I was already in a cab when I was told Ghaziabad was 40kms from IGI. Ouch! Oh well, the cab ride gave me a chance to enjoy the sights of New Delhi, at a price of course.
We headed out to Greater Noida, where the Buddh International Circuit is located, another 40kms from our hotel. The roads around New Delhi are amazingly well kept; not a single speed breaker or ditch through the whole ride. I had already started liking New Delhi, and it was just the beginning.
The area around the circuit was hardly complete. I’m talking acres here, because it looked like the Jaypee group owns half of Greater Noida. It was Jaypee for as far as you could see. Amazing really. Then there was the circuit itself, damn. The first sight of it really gives you a sense of pride, making you not believe something like an F1 race was actually happening in India.
And then came out Alguersuari in FP2… oh my gawd. The sound of an F1 car was just unbelievably loud. And for fans like us, it was the epitome of the trip thus far. Unbelievable. A thousand miles traveled, and the just the sound of an F1 car had made us feel it was worth it all.
Friday evening was spent in Delhi, visiting India Gate and the famous eatery Khan Chacha. My opinion about Khan Chacha – the owners are egoistic and the prices just don’t justify the taste. More on this later.
Saturday involved being late to Qualifying because of traffic, visiting the F1 Village, returning to India Gate, and heading out to Karim’s. Karim’s too, was over hyped. It was 9pm and the Biryani and Raan were already over. WTF?
Sunday. Race Day! And boy, was it worth the 2 hours in traffic. We made it just in time for the parade lap, and cheered as Vettel, Schumi, Massa, Alonso, and Karthikeyan went by on old classics; and uttered racist words as Hamilton passed by. We watched as Massa and Hamilton collided, Massa’s Ferrari grinding to a halt as it passed turns 10 and 11, Massa being scootered away (on a Honda Activa! ), and after the race, the damaged Ferrari being towed away just a few feet from us. Ahh, worth it all.
And as an added bonus, we saw the God of Cricket, Sachin Tendulkar, stuck in traffic right besides us, happily acknowledging the crowd that had stopped their cars to take photos!
Sunday night’s dinner was at Kake-Da-Hotel, and WOW! The half an hour wait was a small price to pay for what was the best Butter Chicken and Mutton Keema I have ever had. Khan Chacha and Karim’s can learn a thing or two from Kake-Da, the food was superb and light on the wallets. A must for anybody visiting Delhi.
Sides: This post was to be written more than a day ago, but I ended up sleeping for 20-hours straight after coming home!