Formula One weekend: A class apart
The title of this piece can be construed to have two meanings at the same time. The first one is the novelty of the sport where machine dominates human capabilities. Not to downplay the skills required to drive such a race car and the after-effects of the race on a driver-how many sportspersons can claim to have lost their weight by 3 kg after competing in an event?
Second, as a sport, even though it has a fanatic fan following globally but that audience is sharply defined, aptly reflecting from the gate prices of the event.
Many would suggest that it is a rich man's slap on the face of a daily wage earner considering the fact that the amount spent on three-days of total tamasha is way over than what the earner can even dream of amassing in his entire life. Compared with others, Formula One isn't your typical sport that can be enjoyed daily, anywhere, anytime.
Like it is with football or cricket, all you need is an open space, a bunch of sticks or maybe not, a ball and presto you got yourself a game. In stark contrast, not many are privileged enough get their hands on the steering wheels of their own car let alone drive a Formula One race car.
However, if you take a look at the profile of a Formula One race driver who is described as "statistically the greatest driver the sport has ever seen" you will be bound to think for a moment whether practically speaking Formula One is a common man's sport or not.
Michael Schumacher's father was a bricklayer and the man still managed to raise his son to become a seven time world champion in one of the most expensive sports of the world. Your current and the youngest world and double world champion in F1, Sebastian Vettel's father was a carpenter. So, it is wrong to assume that a commoner cannot dream for the sky in this sport.
Even though speaking from my personal experience, Formula One is more of a TV friendly sport than a spectator sport. It is true that for the speed junkies, nothing comes closer than watching live a car whizzing past your eyes, testing your ear drums to their limits at speeds close to 300km/hr. But the thrill for others, wears down as it becomes hard to keep a tab on who is leading and who has crashed unless you keep yourself close to the speakers which of course turn inaudible as the race progresses further.
One can quote the ticket prices to be one of the reasons why F1 is out of bounds for a common man. Consider the scale of investment made on a Formula One circuit. The cheapest ticket for the inaugural Indian Grand Prix was priced at Rs. 2500. The Buddh International circuit in Greater Noida has been built at an estimated cost of 400 million dollars in addition to the amount spent in order to acquire the rights for hosting such a race. The organisers are bound to charge a hefty sum to break even which they have suggested will be possible only in 3-4 years. After all, it is a private venture.
So, experiencing a live F1 race is truly an elite adventure when you combine the entry fee and the prices of food and beverages (a humble burger at Indian GP was priced at Rs. 200, ironically they were being distributed for free after the race had ended as apparently they were of no use by then.).
Keeping aside the scepticism, for a true motorsports fan in India, the Indian GP at BIC was a dream come true. Experiencing the thrill and charm of a machine approaching from a distance in no time and disappearing just when you were lost in all of its majesty is unmatched. By the end, you are left with the beethovenesque music of the engine, the smell of the tarmac, and the spectacular sight of two choppers doing an air-lap of the 5.137 km track. Even though the result came out on expected lines but the crash buddies-Lewis Hamilton and Felipe Massa, didn't disappoint the 95,000 spectators by adding to the legend that this season is turning out to be as far as the feud between the two goes. Yet again, they were involved in a crash during the race making it six times during 2011 season.
Not only the cars sent the temperature soaring, the crowd (aka the fabled Delhi eye candies) present there too was a culprit turning an otherwise pleasant autumn afternoon hotter than a normal October day would see.
Believe me F1 is faster than what you can imagine.