India welcomes Formula One circus

Last Updated: Oct 29, 2011, 09:32 AM IST

Greater Noida: Deafening noise, smell of burning tyres, skimpily-clad models and free-flowing beer gave India the first taste of the glamorous world of Formula One that came alive at the swanky Buddh International Circuit (BIC) here Friday.

Till a couple of days back the circuit was nothing but a dust bowl, though things have not improved much, the festivities and the enthusiasm was enough for the fans to ignore all the negatives surrounding India`s maiden Formula One race Sunday.

Despite the teething problems, the first day of the race came as a pleasant surprise for the fans, who were welcomed by the ear-piercing sounds of "vroom vroom" even two kilometres away from the track.

Even Formula One chief Bernie Ecclestone, who was apprehensive about India`s preparations for the race, couldn`t hide his smile and said: "Super... The track is super."

For birthday boy Ecclestone, who turned 81 Friday, it was a pleasant surprise on a new territory that holds a promising future for the sport.

"They have done everything we wanted them to do, within two or three years of us reaching an agreement. It took Silverstone 25 years, so I think they have done well," said the Englishman, while acknowledging the birthday wishes from his peers.

The Formula One has a huge fan base in countries where locals have little to cheer about. But Indians have more than a reason -- Force India, Narain Karthikeyan and waiting-in-the-wings Karun Chandhok -- to embrace the sport.

The fans, who turned up for Friday`s practice session, cheered wildly for Hispania`s Karthikeyan, Team Lotus`s Chandhok, and Force India`s Adrian Sutil and Paul Di Resta.

"We have an Indian team and Indian drivers. What more do we want," said Vijay Kaushik, a die-hard motorsport fan.

Both Karthikeyan and Chandhok made the most of the 90-minute session, doing 30 and 24 laps on a dusty surface where all drivers struggled to get a grip on their tyres.

Fans, however, were disheartened that Chandhok will not take part in the race.

"I wish we had two Indian drivers in the race. But today we are lucky to see them driving," said teenager Trisha Patel, sporting a Ferrari jersey.

The swanky merchandising shops were a good reason for the fans to splurge while long queues were witnessed outside the beer stalls. But it were the ear plugs, which were selling like hot cakes. Though even buying a burger may burn a hole in a fan`s pocket, they don`t mind it as they have already paid a huge amount to buy a three-day ticket.

"Formula One is the mother of all sports. This is the first time we are witnessing such a race. We don`t mind being a little extravagant," said another fan.

IANS