Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Worshipping the ultimate Automobile..F1 @ Singapore

Come Friday. After admiring the 4 passes for the 20th time, the grin on my face widened as I realized that it was time to leave for the big event. Though the practice was to start at 6, I had pestered Mami and Shreya to start early so I could worship the race track. We parked the car at a mall and took the MRT to the city centre- Raffle's place.

It was a peculiar feeling- strolling on the otherwise busy roads packed with Mercs and Bentleys ferrying the bankers, executives to and fro the central business district. The race season meant that the CBD roads were either gobbled up by the race circuit or open to the general public minus vehicles. So it was either race cars or none at all.

As we neared the entrance, I heard the sound of engines! I literally ran as I inferred that the Formula-BMW qualifying had started. The security guys frisked my bag and stated that we weren't allowed to carry cans inside. I could dispose them off at the bin over there.

Dispose them??!! Didn't those silly people realize that I'm an Indian??

I ran out and finished off two cans of the flavored milk. We rushed again to the circuit to catch the junior champs whirring their BMW engines. The Formula BMW is based on cars somewhat similar to Formula 3 and the winner gets a place as a test or reserve driver in Formula 1 the next year. The boys are a fun to watch coz at times, you can catch certain level of immaturity- late braking, near misses and lots of wheel locking. Mami commented on how noisy the cars were and I started blabbering on the kind of pressure the engine is in at 18000RPM and the job here is to extract as much power as you can from that engine rather than focusing on noise reduction. Shreya skillfully stopped my car talk bombardment. Yes, a tough task to stop a fellow whose aim in life is to educate people about the greatness of the automobile.

After the qualifying was over, the track marshals made a round in the stunning BMW X-6. Is it an SUV? A sedan? BMW doesn't have the answer and calls it a 'cross-over'. But the real star was the AMG Mercedes safety car that came out later. The distinct angry howl of the motor is difficult to forget.

We then walked down the perimeter of the Zone 4. I was awed by what I saw. Had I been alone, I am sure I would have bent down and kissed the ground. Not to embarrass my family, my happiness was limited to my mind and my smile. We caught Vijay Mallya speaking on how Fisichella's exit won't be a problem for Force India and Sutil could carry on as the lead driver pretty well.

Just before the start, we took places at the straight. The track was just around 3 metres away from us separated by a metal mesh.

A few minutes past 6, we heard the roar of a monster. A monster: eager, ready and with power beyond imagination. As the roar neared, I kept my eyes trained at the corner. Soon enough a shining purple dot was seen coming out of the corner and heading straight towards us. The roar was growing to a thunder. In time best described in millisecond units, the purple Red Bull RB5 thundered past us. When it flew past us, everyone was looking at everyone else in a shock. I remember the mystic look on Mami's face. The unspoken words between us were something like: 'And we thought the formula BMW cars were loud'!! Though the passes clearly stated that having ear plugs is a must in this zone, we never bothered. Other people around us were struck by similar revelations. As the second Red bull whizzed past and the Renault was coming in, people were already retrieving their ear plugs or heading to the counter selling the same. Mami took out her heaphones to abate the thundering monsters.

They say nothing can capture the majestic thunder of F1 engines. Agreed. But more than that, nothing can come even close to being with the cars in a circuit. I remembered a couple of friends laughing off at the prospect of me missing the race: no overtaking, no winner and so on. But beat this. I am on the circuit, close to the racers and the cars than I can ever be. The smell of the burning rubber, the faint odor of fuel and the wind created by man made phenomenon!! The heat, sparks, the flames from the exhaust at gear shifts. The Singapore 2009 tagline says it all- 'NOTHING ELSE COMES CLOSE'.

Mama joined us in a while. His office is a couple of blocks away and he walked down. At about the same time, Luizzi came out in the Force India car. No matter how much I hate Mallya and Luizzi, I have to thank them. I am no patriotic zealot but my chest swelled with pride as I saw the tricolor on the Force India car.

By this time, one Ferrari and both the Williams had also come out. Night had also arrived. Being the only night circuit in the world, this does add a lot of thrill and glamour. Alonso had commented before the practice that all drivers had complained of headaches as well as bruises on their feet after the Singapore GP last year. We headed to the corner where the Singapore river meets the Marina bay. Chance to roam around the track beats all awesomeness! At the corner, its a different story. While on the straights I was amazed by the phenomenal acceleration, here the braking took me. One can actually see the brake disks turning orange as the metal heats up to red. Soon enough, the Renault did something similar to last year and Grosjean upheld the tradition by spinning out at the same place. The smoking tires were quite entertaining if you have a knack for automotive humor. Another McLaren caught my eye. The golden visor helmet in it had to belong to Hamilton. Even at a distance, there is no mistaking that the McLaren is being driven by Lewis Hamilton. The car was pretty low and we saw a couple of sparks as it negotiated curves on minor invisible bumps. At one instance, Hamilton even drifted at the Esplanade turn. Speed must have definitely been 140-180 at that time.

As the first session of practice ended, we had food and roamed around to soak in more of the F1 festivities. The Esplanade upheld its grandeur for this event and a F1 village had also been set up.

Before I knew it, the 1st practice session was over. We had to wait until 9:30 for the second session to start. But, the circuit would be used for the practice session of the Porsche Carrera championship. Most people found the Carreras slow after having seen the Formula 1 cars in action, it was still fun to watch as again, I got to see a lot more skids, screeches and drifting.

For the second session, we headed for the longer straight. As Kovalinnen drove through, I figured the reason why we can't have F-1 in India. Singapore is a very clean city and I remember being astonished on not finding dust on my clothes after a day long excursion on my first visit. However, the drivers complained of dust last year at Singapore. This year, I saw it with my own eyes! As the cars crossed the 250 kmph mark, we could see the dust being streamlined from the frond wings upto the rear! U had to look hard to find this live lesson of aerodynamics at display.

As we headed home in our more sane Nissan Sunny, images still flashed in my head. That I had witnessed the greatest engineering marvels in action, the ultimate machines on one of the most glamorous tracks of the world! It seemed that life had a meaning now, a dream fulfilled, memories to cherish. The dark skies, sparkling circuit and the machines! They say you feel like that when you bask in glory, when you are in love; but here it was just a man and his respect for the automobile.


  1. Dude.. Awesome writing.. The vivid description of the track and the surroundings made me wish even I were there. I can imagine how you felt for I would feel the same if I were ever to land up at Old Trafford(Manchester United's abode). Lets hope you get the chance to witness more such races and thus continue to keep us enthralled with your writing.

  2. Amen to that! Cheers to the mighty red devils..

  3. wooww......u had sch awsme fun...lcky u..look at my dad...had th passes..an didnt go ...urgh.....an awsme writn ya..strt writn a book.."10 foolproof ways to crack iit"ineed it despratly!!!!lolz