They say F1 is a TV sport. And perhaps, they are right, in a way. They say you can never see a complete race live on track. Perhaps they are right, in a way. They say there is no point in watching an F1 race live. They are absolutely dead wrong.
Television only tells you a story. It shows you what the camera eye sees, nothing more, nothing less.
It will never show you the high-pitched fervour of an F1 fan. It will never replicate the growl of a V-8 engine echoing through the track. It will never ever zoom in on the fans – waving Kimi’s flag, screaming Alonso’s name, draped in McLaren colours, or holding up homemade cards. And if you are someone like me, then it will never show you a fan screaming, howling and punching in the air as Bruno Senna and Jenson Button fly by.
A television will never tell you about that bus ride to the track – excruciatingly slow – full of Ferrari, Kimi, and McLaren fans. The speed bothers them, but does not dim the thrumming excitement. They chat of races past, of the races now, of Championship wins, and disappointments. They talk about F1 as if it is a living, breathing thing – for many, a reason for existing. It’s race day Sunday, and they are not in front of the television like always – alone in their obsession. Instead, they are here, together, in a bus on the way to F1 circuit – with people just as obsessed, just as much in love with the sport and its players.
A television will never tell you how a fan – like me – ignores a dusty trip to the track to reach the circuit really, really early – just so she doesn’t miss a single moment. The sun beats down – unforgiving – covering the entire Picnic Stand. There are no umbrellas there like the previous year, so you sit and wait, for the Qualifying the first day and the race, on the second.
But the heat and the super-expensive food don’t even warrant a debate. A growl fills the air, echoing through the bowl that is the circuit. It makes me shiver and gives me goose bumps. I grin at strangers who smile back, mirroring my excitement. The first of the cars come out, doing a shimmy, the sort only an F1 car can do. It’s warm-up time; the race is still a ways away. Just before that, there is the driver’s parade. I have convinced two guys – a friend, and another, a Schumacher fan – to hold up a sign. I slaved over it the night before. It reads: @BrunosGirls Say #Good Luck Bruno J.
Unfortunately though, there is disappointment in store. The drivers are all piled into a truck decorated with flowers – no individual cars for them. They are being interviewed as they take the ride around the circuit. It makes for great television – but what about all the fans lined up, waiting for their favourites to wave at them?
The sun edges towards the west. The chopper climbs into the sky, its whirring just one of the many indicators – it is that time again. It’s time for the cars to come out of the pits and fill the air with their growl. It’s exhilarating, almost electric. We move en masse toward the fence – some pressing against it standing on their tiptoe, earplugs forgotten around their necks. They come out – the first turn, then the 2nd, then the third, and the cars take off down the long straight. The race has begun.
They fly by. Time stands still. The only reality is the cars and the drivers. They are fighting today for Championship points. Sebastian Vettel has the pace – it looks like it’ll be The Finger on the podium once again. I groan. Oh no, not again! He also won here last year. But, I am being a little nice to The Finger. He said some nice things about Ayrton Senna. But that Finger. Vettel runs a clean race. Red Bull is definitely at the top. There is an issue. When he activates the DRS, there are a few sparks from the undertray of his car. But that doesn’t bother him, as Vettel races to victory.
Fernando Alonso, his rival, championship contender and Indian GP favourite (as is Kimi Raikkonen and Michael Schumacher) is close behind. The weekend proved that the car has the speed to match those Red Bulls. Alo passes a struggling Mark Webber to take 2nd. The McLarens try to catch up with the first row pack, but failed. It was could-have, would-have, should-have all throughout. Lewis Hamilton loses 3rd by 0.6s, while Jenson Button sets a last-minute fastest-lap, but ends at 5th.
Bruno goes by. He was brilliant during Qualifying, but lost out in Q2. Pity. His future at Williams is in doubt. Valtteri Bottas may replace him in 2013. But, that uncertainty doesn’t affect his performance in any way. He takes the first turn towards me, the sun shining down on the Williams, and his car does a shimmy. I gulp. Just for a moment, for that one single moment, I have an uncanny feeling – Ayrton. I shrug if off, screaming Brunnoooo as he flies by. Bruno fights for position, overtaking teammate Pastor Maldonado and then races for that one final point. He grabs it from Nico Rosberg, sets the second fastest lap time in the race, and takes 10th. Maldonado ends up at 16th after a clash with Kamui Kobayashi leaves his car with a puncture. And Schuey? He suffers the ignominy of a DNF after a 1st lap puncture and then towards the end, a gear box failure.
The end is here. It’s time to battle traffic. But as I race towards the parking, I find myself laughing.
This is F1. And yes, no matter what the naysayers say, I will relive this moment, this race day Sunday, again, and again every year.