Saturday, March 05, 2005

Speed Demons

As I passed through Gate 2 at Albert Park this afternoon, I started to hear the typical roar that Formula-1 engines produced. It was exciting to have a chance to catch these machines from up close. But nothing could prepare me for the next few minutes as I made my way towards the viewing area beside the fence right next to the track. As Jensen Button passed the section before heading for a sharp bend, I felt a chill down my spine. The awesome speed and the power of the car left me numb and shell shocked. The sharp, deafening sound the engine produces only adds to the effect. As driver after driver passed the section in Saturday's qualifying session, the challenge of being an F-1 driver became somewhat apparent to me. This is not for the faint hearted. More importantly perhaps, the engineering has to be absolutely precise - at these speeds, the slightest hiccup could be catastrophic. In this context, one cannot help but feel proud of Narain Karthikeyan, who on his debut finished ninth after the first qualifying session. He had the advantage of the dry conditions, but he did make it count. A few Australian people asked me if I was there because of Karthikeyan. One young 'bloke' who obviously had too much Foster's lager thought Karthikeyan should go back to Bangalore and 'do' IT! Others were much more well mannered, being well informed and travelled people. One such gentleman, I learnt, has worked in Minneapolis for Cargill (the Agri giant) and been to India 33 times. It really is a small world these days. I'd have gone regardless as this was a great opportunity to catch F-1 action (normally, I would have had to travel to Indianapolis to do this), but it added a new dimension. It's always a great feeling to be able to cheer on your compatriots at international events. Even if the sport is F-1, where it is barely possible to do so. I realized by the end of the afternoon that the best place to watch F-1, for serious followers, was on your couch. For Michael Schumacher, it was a day to forget. Actually, it was an abysmal day overall, and Melbourne actually felt more like Manchester at its worst. People who've been in the Northwest of England would know what I'm talking about. It was cold, and it was pouring in between spells of bright sunshine. Most of the spectators had general admission passes and had to scamper for cover every time the downpour came in, umbrellas and macks notwithstanding. Of course, the organizers tried to put up a brave face as they were wont to do. But it got so bad that the Formula-3 competition late afternoon was cancelled midway. There was some solace for them though, in the good show by local hope Mark Webber. Tomorrow is supposed to be better and the qualifying session and the race are not expected to be affected by rain. Fingers crossed...for the weather and Karthikeyan's performance. - NK PS: The post title is a borrow from an old Michael Jackson number. Not a politically correct choice, I suspect.

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