Thursday- Autograph Session
I reached early in the morning in Delhi and quickly got to my hotel near the railway station. My friend Ankur Garhwal came over by afternoon as we set out our journey to the Buddh International Circuit for the Autograph Session, lucky few selected to be present there. I had brought 22 cards of all the drivers to get their autograph and for some I had extra cards with my thoughts written behind to gift them. It was not any usual photo but the photo I took last year of the drivers. It was quite a journey to the track as we took the famous Auto-rickshaw from Noida City Center Metro to the track as there was no time to book a cab. We reached just on time to enter in a deserted BIC as we got the taste of the track on a Thursday of the weekend.
We were shown the way to the main straight and the feeling was just about setting in as we stood right on the track, on the tarmac where the cars touches about 300km/hr. As we were right in the end, we had to wait for our turn as we saw lots of drivers coming in and leaving after a brief 5-8 minutes there. By the time our turn came, drivers remaining were Vettel, Alonso, Massa, Rosberg, Bottas & Maldonado as Hamilton & Webber just left as we moved towards them. Still I was glad to have met the above drivers and present my cards which they appreciated and got their autographs. The atmosphere there was superb as I saw lot of marshals and fans with big banners of their favourites showing that F1 has a good enough hold in India and it is growing everyday. A good start to my 2013 Indian GP journey with much more to come.
It was a great morning after we received a confirmed message from Marussia team about spending a day with the team that day and watching both the practice session from their garage. We headed out early and reached by 9-9:15AM as me & Ankur headed for F1 Village where we were to meet the Marussia PR who would get us in. It was great to meet the team again this year after spending a good time with them last year. We quickly went in to the garage as FP1 was just about to begin where we also met the head PR of the team. We were standing right behind Max Chilton’s car with Jules Bianchi at the right side of us. Max was already there as he acknowledged our presence as did the whole team in front of us.
After a quick photo of us for the team Twitter handle, we started having a chat with Max about the track as it was his first time driving in India. I was surprised to get back a question from him as he pointed out to me, “You spend most of your life on Twitter, isn’t it?” after having enquired us as to what are we presently doing in our life. It was quite a brief chat but quite refreshing indeed. We let him off with his session work as the serious work begun for him. Jules at the right side also acknowledged our presence with a wave. We had with us Tio Ellinas (GP3 & Marussia’s young driver) & also Rodolfo Gonzalez (Marussia’s reserve driver) standing beside us watching the proceedings. We talked a bit and took some photos as they moved in and out during the session.
Post FP1 session, we had our lunch in the Marussia motorhome after the team having their lunch. It was good to see that even the drivers have their lunch in the same place where all the other team members have theirs. In our free time, we roam about the paddock as we met Karun Chandhok, David Croft and saw host of other F1 personalities. We also had the pitlane walk as we went past all the team garage with mechanics working and getting ready for FP2 session. We were back in our position in the Marussia’s team garage to watch the proceedings of FP2 session.
In the second session we got to see how the mechanics & engineers react and work to fix a damage to the car. Max’s car had some trouble with the brake pad and the team quickly got to work as they changed all the 4 brake pad to ensure safety of the driver. One more thing I noticed is mechanics polishing the car all the time, I was told that cleanliness is very strict in the team and thus they clean as and when they spot some dirt. And what was great to see is that no matter what the designation was, all the mechanics by and by cleaned the car and the garage.
After the end of the session, we were given the garage tour as we went through whole of the garage and enquired as much as we could from the team members who were, I must say very friendly and answered all our queries with a smile. We did see car parts from inside and all the work which goes post the session. After that we were gifted a Gear Ratio which was used in the 2013 car and had run its mileage. I was in seventh heave to have received a car part, a F1 car part. We also met Max & Jules whom I presented my card and took their autograph as well. We had free time till about 7 in the evening as we roam about the paddock.
We met Monisha Kalternborn, Nico Hulkenberg, Romain Grosjean among the biggies as I presented my written card to Nico & Romain. I got to meet and interact with Rob who worked in Lotus F1 Team, I remembered having interacted with him last year and so it was great to catch up with him again. We also met Ankur’s Twitter friend Ricardo who also worked in Lotus. As we were interacting with him, we did see Kimi in the Lotus motorhome but didn’t bother him much there. Upon returning to bid goodbye to Marussia team, I was quite surprised when the team’s hospitality person stated that I remember you from last year when you were here, it was indeed a nice compliment there. On our way out we saw James Calado, Bob Fernley & di Resta leaving the track.
A new day and a fine morning again after we received the confirmation about our Sahara Force India garage tour before the FP3 session. We set out early again and met up the SFI PR near the paddock entry gate to begin our SFI tour. It was only about for 20 minutes but I can say for both myself & Ankur, we enjoyed being there for sure. I also got to meet lot of the team members whom I knew from before which was great really. We got a lovely tour all around the garage and we were explained well about the different areas. The time was less but we appreciated the team’s effort to invite us for the tour when the team had hundreds of guests coming in during the weekend.
We left quickly and went straight to our Picnic Stand, our view was from T2 to T3 including the pit exit at T2 and the uphill T3 onto the longest straight. Standing close to the grills, we were barely 15 steps from the track, we could see the cars braking and turning at T3. I saw the FP3 & Qualifying action from the stands and it was good to see more than half the stand full. Between FP3 & Qualifying session, our paddock tour with Pirelli was confirmed for post qualifying. It meant another evening inside the paddock and our excitement wasn’t to be hidden from anyone.
We were received by a Pirelli engineer at the same place as Marussia & SFI PR, and we got in chatting with the engineer about his experiences and the 2013 season. When we reached the Pirelli motorhome, I was pleasantly surprised when Pirelli’s PR told me that I’ll be doing the #AskPaulonF1 podcast with Paul Hembery. I was asked to ask all the selected questions from Twitter & Facebook and naturally my question was the first one. I was only to read the questions but I was pretty nervous surely with it being my first time doing such a thing. I noticed that Paul was so easy in answering them, something we can learn really. It was an absolute honour to meet him in person after him acknowledging me so many times in his podcast.
We then moved around the paddock after receiving some Pirelli goodies that of Pirelli cap & the cool wrist bands. The first thing to happen was us getting on telly, just about passing the Lotus garage, we noticed Sky Sports Ted Kravitz doing his post Qualifying Ted’s Notebook and we came right infront of him on camera as he said, “What are they doing? Ohh, some photos”, reckon we got a bit famous there. We then spotted Bob Fernley, such a nice person and readily agreed for a photo. We also met BBC Radio Pitlane reporter Jennie Gow who actually remembered me from Friday when we had met her then. From far I saw Nico Rosberg as I ran down the paddock to take a photo with him. While coming to the other side, we caught up with ever smiling Daniel Ricciardo and we posed for a photo, Karun was cheering Daniel to smile even more, quite a moment that.
Towards the end of our paddock tour from Pirelli, we met few of our friends from SFI as well whom we wanted to meet. It was great moment to meet the famous Neil from SFI too, his “Neil’s Wisdom” is quite famous on Twitter & Facebook. And then we met the man himself, Dr.Vijay Mallya who was leaving the paddock it seems. I also got a photo with Pirelli’s Mario Isola who was walking down the paddock. We then waited to have a good chat with Caterham tyre engineers, they were very friendly as we talked about their India experiences as well their love with F1, it is always touching to hear their stories, an inspiration for the likes of us to push and live our dream of working in F1. Our time was up by then as we waited for our friend outside the paddock when we met BBC Analyst & ex-Star Sports commentator Gary Anderson, quite a jolly person which ended our Saturday as we left the track for our hotel.
Even though we weren’t going to be in the paddock on Sunday, it was still a fine morning for us gearing up for the big race ahead. We left the track fairly early considering the race start as we wanted to see the drivers parade. We went straight to our stands, I was really happy to see lots and lots of people on Sunday. We saw glimpses of the grandstand being a full house which was great for F1 in India. We were positioned well to watch the first lap scrap from T3 as we stood very close to the protection grills. It is quite difficult to actually keep a check on the positions but we did our best there to always check on P1 to P10 at least.
We moved a bit up and down the stand to get different views of the track and racing. The crowd went crazy when Mark Webber’s car came to a halt near out stand, everyone ran to get a glimpse of it, we didn’t want to get pushed there and so we took the safe option to head straight to the top hill near the turning from where both Webber & his car was to be taken away. Our clever approached helped as we saw both Webber & his car go by us very closely. The racing action was quite intense we came to know about different strategies and by making out lots of different drivers in different positions.
In the end Vettel won it fair & square and it was our privilege to be part of history as he won his 4th title. We watched the celebrations on the giant screen and it was absolutely chilling, the emotions too were for real. Also, it was a double point finish for SFI after a difficult patch for the team. Being the home GP for the team, it was a precious gift from the team for all the fans. I was happy with Marussia’s results too as both the car finished the race. All in all, it was brilliant Sunday for me after no doubt brilliant Thursday, Friday & Saturday.
Youtube Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lCsXPSbWbgc - Ted's Kravitz Notebook, check from 12:52 to 12:59
Pirelli Link: http://www.pirelli.com/tyre/ww/en/f1/f1-paul-hembery.html?tab=2 - Hear the Indian GP podcast
Facebook Link: https://www.facebook.com/darshan.chokhani/media_set?set=a.10201037122182646.1073741831.1005400801& - My picture album on Facebook, open for all to view
Thanks for reading,
Darshan ( @DarshanChokhani )