It took one look at the paddock for an assessment to be made. Gone was the last-minute, just tumbled out of bed with rumpled hair look that the Buddh International Circuit had last year. The circuit on Thursday, before the 2012 race on Sunday, looked complete — the grass green, the dust gone, and signs of construction no longer there.
But there’s another thing that immediately strikes you as you enter the paddock for the second edition of the Indian Grand Prix. The chaos and hoopla that seemed to surround the inaugural race were gone. The throngs of people who had managed to wrangle paddock passes, either because they were genuine fans or because they simply wanted to be present due to the novelty of Formula 1, are no longer there. Neither are quite so many PR professionals, who, last year, seemed to lurk around every corner of the paddock, trying to whisk you away from whatever it was you were doing and attend their press conference, media interaction, round-table or whatever else they had on offer. While last year there were many marshals walking through the paddock looking as though all they were doing was seeking autographs, this year there are fewer of them, and their gaits are purposeful, minds focused clearly on the job. The hoopla may be gone, but the racing continues to be serious. Formula 1 seems to be settling in rather nicely at the BIC (Buddh International Circuit) — a good thing for the sport and for India’s affiliation with it.
Flashback once again to the Saturday before the race in 2011. To say the grandstands were groaning under the weight of the assembled crowds might have been pushing it, but the enthusiasm and energy of the assembled fans was a thing to be seen. This year, things are certainly more subdued. Ahead of qualifying, the main grandstands are packed, but the crowds in the natural stands and around the circuit are certainly thinner. However, it is important to note the people who have made it to the track are enthusiasts for whom F1 is more than a passing fancy. And it’s always good to see true sporting enthusiasm.
While ticket prices were slashed earlier this year, the turnout might not be quite as great as it was last year. But there are things one must be thankful for. Spotted at the first corner of the circuit last year, watching the race in high heels, with a point-and-shoot camera in hand, clutching a Gucci bag, was a lady wearing a tabard that proudly proclaimed ‘Fire Marshal’.
One can only be thankful that there were no fires at the race, and also that such instances have not been seen this year. A quick look around the track reassures the mind that while the crowd seems to have depleted a little bit, the racing, organisation and order of things seems to have fallen into place. Formula 1 could well be here to stay.