Growing up watching cricket, I never ever believed that there could come a day when I’d love any other sport more.
2002 was a watershed year for me in terms of how my beliefs could change. It was mid week and I was in a conversation with my boss on weekend plans. I was a bachelor then, and weekends were all about going out with friends and having fun. The passion for the core group that I used to hang out with was go-karting, bowling and of course, food! I was expecting to have one of the standard weekend pastimes get discussed until by boss & very good friend said, “I want to watch the race this weekend.” I didn’t know what race he was mentioning to and asked him a very innocent question, “When did you start gambling with horses, boss?”. A man of very high principles, he broke out into laughter and said this was Formula 1 race and not the traditional horse racing.
Intrigued with a very good friend’s passion for a race, I confronted him upfront saying what’s the fun in watching cars go round and round? He started explaining the nuances of Formula 1 racing to me and since then, I have been in awe of this sport. Cars being a boy thing, I was quick to get carried away, the rules and the nature of this beast caught on to me in no time. He offered to have me watch the race with him and I gladly accepted. I had got my new 29 inch large screen then and was happy to offer my place for watching the race. My friend showed up on Saturday – I was puzzled for a second and thought I was smoking pot… isn’t the race on Sunday, I asked. “ Qualifying” he said, the business that determines the starting grid as we quickly rushed upstairs with some juice and snacks to catch my first ever race.
What I saw and heard was something that has had a lasting impact on me. I loved what I saw, especially, the pit crews turning a car around in no time, the strategy in terms of stops, how much fuel to take and where to start, fancy steering wheels etc., It took me a lot of time to actually believe that a team can refuel and change 4 tires in anything less than 7 seconds, sometimes 6! That’s barely enough time for you to blink. The love for speed and the 300+ kms that cars hit on a straight, coupled with the G forces of up to 4G got me even closer to this sport. It’s been 7 years since – I’ve watched every race possible, and with this very good friend of mine (he now lives in Chennai and we watch races reviewing strategies on the phone).
I was a McLaren fan to start with. I loved the look of Kimi (I am straight before you get ideas) and the team and for some strange reason, loathed Ferrari. I must confess that an extended circle that watched the race with me were all anti- McLaren and huge fans of Ferrari. Kimi did his best with the machine that was given to him, despite blowing up every other race engine. With passing time and the rising magic of Schumi, needless to mention, the huge peer pressure of the Ferrari fans, I switched loyalties to Ferrari when McLaren had one of their worst years ever. I’ve not looked back since and have been a true Ferrari fan. I was in tears to see Schumi quit and thought the race will never be the same again – I’ve been proved wrong time and again. Every season since he left has been interesting with more new comers coming to take the world and this sport by storm.
March 29 is the D day when the 2009 season flags off in Albert Park, Melbourne. F1 has been a rich sport traditionally. That said, the recession has taken it’s toll on the sport too. Honda, one of the teams that participate, was bailed out and is still an unsure starter. The governing body is considering a host of steps to ensure that the sport survives. From standard tires to standard engines, they are working on different options to see how the sport can be made to go on. I personally believe that the pinnacle of motor sport will never be the same again if some / any of these rule changes comes by. What’s the fun in giving 20 people a Maruti 800 and say, come on, race, this is the pinnacle of motor sport? No offence to Maruti, but the fun of having your own car goes away with these changes!
While time will tell the impact of these changes, I can’t wait to hear the vroom of these race cars from now through to October this year. With a race pretty much every other weekend, my weekends will now never be the same again.
Image Credit: My Poor Brain