“They aren’t being very subtle, are they,” Lady Luck said, settling down next to me and propping her feet up on my dashboard.
I swerved and hit the brakes. “Hey, what are you doing here?” I asked, as an irritable driver honked behind me.
“Oh, Sepang was done. They’re all in Phillip Island now,” she said. “Anyway,” Lady Luck said, pointing outside, “They aren’t being very subtle, are they?”
I looked outside and swerved once again.
A gigantic Jenson Button, standing next to a bus stop, one hand waving, stared back at me.
“Oh my God,” I said. “What is that?”
“I know it is Jenson Button. But what is that cardboard thingummy?”
“Better than that though isn’t it,” Lady Luck replied pointing up.
That’s when I saw it: Michael Schumacher and Nico Rosberg, surrounded by super-thin women in tight, red dresses, grinned down at me. I’d been driving past it every morning. How could I have missed it?
“Oh. My. God.”
“Uh-huh,” Lady Luck said scrabbling around my car. “Do you have any rum?”
“No. Go away,” I said, decidedly grumpy. “Focus on McLaren. They need to win, remember? Shoo Vettel? You can also focus on the Ice Man. And Alonso. We like Red this year.”
Lady Luck made a face – a rather rude one at that. “And Bruno Senna better do well. Or else…,” I said scowling at her. She snorted and disappeared. I continued down the road leading to Noida. The signs were there, blatant and in-your-face.
The many Michael Schumachers (He is a favourite here. Bah!). The innumerable Airtel signboards. Then, the McLaren car replica outside my office in Noida. F1 is coming. F1 is here, they all screamed.
And in case some of us lived with blinkers on, there were the news channels and newspapers screaming, “Does India need F1?” Well, I am not getting into that debate.
This was it. The Moment, the weekend I was waiting for.
I’d made my plans in June. You need to be prepared. I realized it last year, when I attended my first ever F1 race on home ground. I woke up early, picked up my bag and caught the bus that would take me to the Buddh International Circuit.
A dusty haze hung over the track then, set in the middle of stark landscape devoid of trees. Much has changed since. The landscape hasn’t changed, but the grass at the Picnic Stand promises to be real. There is still method to be had in all that madness.
The thought of traffic though still sends me into hysterics. Race day dawned and the afternoon came. My cellphone kept ringing. “Where are you?” “Where are you?” A friend asked me again and again. The bus I was in, moved an inch and came to a shuddering halt.
BMWs and Porsches hugged buses and small cars. People stared at their watches, counting down the minutes. Time moved fast – like it almost never does. My phone rang again. “Where have you reached? The drivers’ parade is starting.”
Dust rose up as some cars decided to get on to shoulder of the road. It didn’t work. They were stuck, just like I was. Just like everyone was. The bus finally came to a stop near the track, a 20-minute walk from my stand. I got off with everyone else. We were doing this on foot. I slung my bag across my shoulder, turned up my jeans bottoms, and start a final sprint across the dusty road. We were all running – The Schumacher fans grinned at the Hamilton fans as they ran, the hoity-toity ladies in their heels scrambled alongside dusty, old me in my Button tee.
We were focused on the job at hand. We were a stream of humanity, running towards the stands, to the tune of the throaty roar of F1 engines. I reached my spot, exhausted, dusty, tired, exhilarated, excited, and happy. I was here. I was at an F1 race.
The dust has long since settled, but promises to rise up again, tomorrow and the day after. All I can remember is the sheer happiness at watching the race.
The Indian Grand Prix promises to be exciting this time. The Championship is wide open and Sebastian Vettel is looking at staking his claim. Fernando Alonso is determined to push his Ferrari to the limit, even as Kimi Raikkonen promises to sneak up on the two. Meanwhile, Sergio Perez has been unwell (Delhi Belly perhaps? Hope he gets well soon.). Mark Webber has been playing cricket, the Ice Man has been dealing with the cows and Lewis Hamilton is boasting an all-new helmet, an India special.
What will the Indian Grand Prix bring? I hope it’s much more than dust, traffic jams and an exhausting marathon to the track. I bet it will. After all, this season has been anything but predictable.
Meanwhile, I hope Lady Luck lays off the rum. As for me, I have my trainers on. If I need to sprint to the track again, so be it.