I remember a time when my social life revolved around the F1 Calendar. Weekends were blocked for Qualifying sessions and Race day.
I very clearly remember how we used to reach a watering hole early. ‘Happy hours’ were not just the two hours of the race, but started much before the cars lined up for the
Warm-up lap. Hardcore cricket followers, boring corporate executives, journalists, advertising crowd, real estate agents, models, businessmen, college kids and the young and old alike, would all be there religiously at the same watering hole. Some even superstitious enough to sit in the same chair and table as the previous race. I wouldn't blame them really. It was just way too entertaining that way.
In a country where cricket is religion and Sachin Tendulkar is God (yes, I know am using a cliché here) F1 was quite a welcome break. It was a rebel sport. I couldn’t stand the Indi 500 races and the Moto GP races that used to come on television. There could have been nothing more boring that watch a bunch of cars and bikes going round and round in circles for three hours. Something was missing.
Then it happened, F1 came into the picture. The slick promos with fast cars taking turns at over 200 mph. The adrenaline rush that one got while listening to the commentary of Steve Slater and Chris Goodwin during every race. F1 was a sport that became very much a part of almost everybody’s life. Including my mother!
From a time when one knew about Ferrari by watching Sharukh Khan and Kajol standing next to a Ferrari convertible with the Swiss Alps in the background in a song from DDLJ to now seeing school kids sitting in coffee shops smoking sheesha, coughing and talking about the race that they just didn't see completely because MTV had the re-run of Teen Diva & Roadies, F1 has come a long way.
Friends and colleagues became opponents during weekends, each supporting a team or a driver. Michael Schumacher was the new God (not surprising really with Gods popping out by the dozen each day even otherwise). Ferrari fans/ supporters would wear red,
Mc Laren supporters would crack subtle (Not) digs when Hamilton overtook Kimi. Nicknames of individual drivers became present in everyday conversations. Life had entered into the race tracks and there is no way it would stay away now!
The screaming, the howling, the shouting and the emotions that I witnessed during each race are something that I can’t quite express in words. No matter how hard I try. It has to be experienced. Being amidst hardcore F1 lovers, watching them squeal when their favorite racer makes a mistake and crashes out or when another racer takes a dangerous turn or clips the wheels during an overtaking maneuver, the one-hundredth-of-a-second delay in the pit lane when someone comes to refuel the car followed by a quick tyre change, it was all way too intense. Every second was important. Not just for the people at the pit, or the drivers, or the race engineers, but also for the ones who watch the race. Visits to the loo were few and selective. Only during the commercial breaks, when the dreaded music was heard (a true F1 supporter knows that music that gives him his cue to run to the loo and get back).
March to November. That was the time. The F1 calendar would be at its very best. 17 races, driver’s championship, constructor’s championship, points, tables, who tops the chart, which team is out of the race, which driver has created history. The statistics were keenly followed by everyone. Wake up someone in the middle of their sleep and ask them a question and they would be able to answer. That’s the magic of the sport.
Has the magic reduced? Are people losing interest in the sport? Is the FIA coming out with rules and regulations that are ruining the sport? Or are they making it interesting? Are people worried about front runners not making a mark? Is there going to be a new trend in this sport? What is the Formula to the sports Success?