Maanana padega - Behenji delivers! What a track! And what a race! I have been to quite a few international F1 circuits since my husband is an F1 fanatic. But the Buddh International Circuit (BIC) in Mayaland took my breath away.True confession: I went as a sceptic and was braced for disasters, big and small. But the two days spent in Noida were absolute eyeopeners. And I am not talking about just the Formula One event. Whether Mayawati ( India's original bag lady) or her brother make 30% on every deal cleared in her state is not relevant for now. Show me one neta who is 'clean' and I'll show you a miracle.Everybody takes cuts on everything - directly or through relatives. But not everybody delivers. Mayawati delivered big time. And going by all the massive projects coming up on both sides of the superb expressway, Noida is the place to invest in. As a real estate tycoon I met at a post-F1 party boasted, "I have already trebled my investment." I went gaga at the sight of Mayawati (you can keep your Lady!)! Vettel received his magnificent silver cup from our Behenji, but refrained from spraying her with the celebratory champagne. So impressed am I with Mayawati, I shall propose erecting her statues all over India... with or without the famous handbag!
This appeared in the Sunday Times, before the race.
Vroom Vroom – Force India Vs. Farce India
It’s back to the same old, sadela story : Why Formula One ? Which India are we living in? The argument remains a constant. It’s the peg that changes.This time the peg is Formula One. Voices raised against the Indian debut of the world’s most exciting motor sports’ event are asking, “Do we need such a sport in a country that cannot offer potable drinking water to its citizens?” The answer is obvious : No. We don’t need Formula One in India. The operative word being ‘need’. Extend that to other sports and what do you get? Exactly the same answer. Do we ‘need’ cricket, tennis, badminton,hockey,football, weight lifting,archery? Can we really afford to spend millions on creating infrastructure to host international competitions?What about our pathetic track record?Have we forgotten the CAG debacle already? Why are we screwing up our priorities? Who cares a damn about those speed demons racing around a 5.137km long track at insane speeds? Why are we backing a race that only attracts the elite? How many people in India even own cars? What happens to the swanky Buddh International Circuit at Noida once the race finishes? What’s in it for us?? Valid questions. But we could pose exactly the same queries when it comes to any desi khel and khiladi. So, let’s drop it.
We have become experts at self-flagellation. And we happily allow ourselves to be flogged in public by anybody with an opinion. A lot of negative stories have appeared in the foreign press about the ‘inappropriateness’ of it all. It is either an ‘How dare India break into this prestigious circuit?”, or a snigger- snigger, “ Oh well…. the natives are restless again,” reaction. Most of the reportage has focused on the obvious contradictions and contrasts, and have been written by people assuming a lofty, judgmental tone. It’s the familiar ‘ Bechara India Story’ getting rehashed for the umpteenth time. The point being missed is this : It is not what Formula One can do for India.Rather, it is what India can do for Formula One. Let’s get that straight. India has the upper hand in this game. We have the numbers. And we have the dosh. At a time when Europe is reeling and facing one of its worst financial crises, India is the obvious destination to tap. And the canny man who runs Formula One like an old fashioned despot – Bernie Ecclestone – knows that. European circuits have been done to death. And even die hard fans are slightly bored. The last time Formula One was seen as sexy was when Singapore introduced the night race, with a circuit that snaked through the island state. Singaporean authorities were smart enough to extract their pound of flesh from the deal . F1 turned out to be a win-win situation for the hosts and for Bernie. The sponsors were left in a happy space , too, and got back more than they’d bargained for, given the high visibility generated by the event. Singapore tourism received a big, fat boost and everybody went home grinning. How India leverages this opportunity to its best advantage, depends on us. Let those foreign journos trash India for staging this extravaganza. Let a few countries issue travel advisories telling their folks to stay away. The truth of the matter is, F1 bosses know precisely why they are here – to make money. More money. F1 has been languishing for a while in its old avatar. No superheroes have emerged after Michael Schumacher retired ( and then ‘un’-retired). Much was expected from the wonderboy,Lewis Hamilton, who failed to deliver. And the new-ish kid on the block,Sebastian Vettel may be a devil with his hot wheels, but lacks charisma. Besides, all eyes will be on his team mate Mark Webber ( the Grand Prix Championship works on a complicated formula ) who is expected to bag the top slot at Buddh. That leaves our boy Narain Karthikeyan racing in front of a home crowd. Besides, strange bedfellows, Vijay Mallya and Subroto Roy, who have combined forces for their rechristened team which features Adrian Sutil and Paul di Resta.
Who will make it to the podium? Will the Buddh International Circuit throw up a brand new star… not an F1 race driver, mind you, but India? Will we be able to pull it off with the required panache and prove critics wrong? We have beaten Russia to it ( the Sochi Circuit built at a cost of 987.3 crores will be ready in 2014). And experts say, the Buddh track with 16 corners, 60 laps and an expected speed of 315kph, is one of he best in the world. But as we all know, F1 isn’t just about speed.Or cars. It’s a turbo-charged entertainment package.This one comes with Lady Gaga. It rocks!
I haven't forgotten - Ra.One review tomorrow...