Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Delhi Grand Prix Reality - A Fan's View

Much has been written about the first Formula One Grand Prix to be held in India that took place this weekend just gone. I attended the race on the Saturday and Sunday, but I am afraid I came away with a view which seems to differ strikingly from what I have been reading, which made me wonder if I did, in fact, attend the same GP!

I have read that the drivers thought the circuit, and track in particular, was great. This I can believe. The track had a good mix of fast corners and long straights which make for good driving. The only complaint was the amount of dust on the track, which made life difficult if they strayed off the racing line, but that in itself is not a major issue. Oh, and a few stay dogs on the track during practice made for some additional interest!

Below is one column from the Times of India which was typical of the local reporting.....

I saw lots of Twitter posts from Indian nationals who also seemed to think it was a fantastically well executed first GP. I wonder if it is because it is so far removed from the day to day life that Indians experience that this was indeed, for them, a brilliantly organized event - "flawlessly executed".
From my point of view, as a fan that has been to other GP venues, I found the event lacking in many ways. 

Getting to the venue wasn't too bad, if you are ok with the general lawlessness of the Indian driving style which is anarchic to put it mildly. We took a car to the park and ride parking, which was about half an hour away from the circuit. We decided not to wait for the bus to fill, but instead took a tuc-tuc. Others took whatever travel mode they could!

Once inside the circuit the first thing that struck me was the lack of any architectural value in the main grandstand structures. They were basically huge concrete slabs and a curvy roof. But nothing inspiring or daring. The general workmanship of the construction was also not up to much. Frankly I thought the whole place looked like it was 10 years old already. 

Apart from the main grandstand, all the other stands were just scaffolding structures that appeared like they were temporary. There was no paving around them, so with thousands of people walking about them over the weekend, you just got consumed by dust, that in addition to the smog that engulfed the place at all times in all parts of Delhi.

At other circuits I have been to you can walk to the central "village", but here you had to catch a bus that circled the place. The buses looked like they were 40 years old and the number of them was woefully inadequate. Consequently, they got overcrowded and made for a very unpleasant journey.

Leaving the place after the race was the worst experience of the whole weekend. Firstly, we had to board one of the "circular" buses to get the the place where the buses for the park and ride were leaving. There were scenes of utter chaos as people clamoured to get into the inadequate number of buses. Then once in a park and ride bus we sat in a queue of buses and waited. And waited. And waited!

It took us 2 hours to eventually exit the circuit. Another hour to get to the park and ride. And about another hour and a half to get back to our hotel. By then we had just about had enough!

For Indians, it was a very proud moment. To be seen to be "up there" on the International stage hosting a global sporting event. However, if they want to be on the International stage, they have to provide an experience that rivals their International peers. For me, as a spectator, they failed to achieve this. It left me never wanting to return. Which is a shame, it could have been so different. I have heard it said "it was only the first time - it will improve" and "for their first time, they did a great job". No. Abu Dhabi did a great job first time - and I did go back the next year - and would have gone back this year if I hadn't doubled booked our holiday to Thailand! Others said "yes, but Abu Dhabi have loads of money". Well, there is no shortage of money slushing around India these days, so I don't think that is any excuse.

"India has ways of doing things right" ?? Vettel, are you sure?

For their sake, I hope it does improve and become an event that stands up against any GP in the world. But I am afraid I won't be there to see it. I have definitely "been there, done that".

I will do another post on other aspects of the trip to Delhi. But for now - one highlight. I did get to see Lady Gaga at one of the Delhi markets! Gotta love those shoes.....!

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