An eight-year-old dream of mine is coming true.
I am finally watching an F1 race, live, at the venue.
The Singapore Grand Prix is here. The tickets which had been safely stashed away finally saw the light of day- or should I say the floodlights of the Marina Bay Circuit Park.
With traffic jams prolonging travel time around the island, taking a train was the best option, and I got off at Raffles Place and followed the clear directions to Gate 6, the entrance to the Esplanade Waterfront Grandstand. Full marks to the organisers for the arrangements- if India is ever planning to host an F1 race, it certainly has a lot of work to do.
Gate 6 is in the vicinity of the Fullerton Hotel, and the area offers some of the best views of the city. Merlion Park, the Esplanade, the skyscrapers in the business district, the sea- they couldn't have chosen better when they planned the street circuit. For once, without getting lost or confused, I made my way to the grandstand and settled in for the second practice session, having missed the first due to a delay at work.
Imagine. Think of a tight coil of anticipation unwinding suddenly, as the first F1 car roars around the corner, tantalisingly audible but not in sight yet. And soon, before you realise what is happening, it comes round the corner, speeding in with a high-pitched whine punctuated with thuds as the car bumps over the kerbs. The Red Bull cars came out first, followed by Williams, Force India, Ferrari, Renault, McLaren Mercedes and the rest. What an exhilarating sight it was, the glossy shine and vibrant colours of racing cars lit up by the powerful lights, sleek cars curvingh gracefully down the bend, precariously close to hitting the wall, but negotiating the turn with precision and near-perfection.
There wasn't much action during practice, apart from Mark Webber spinning while he was on top of the time-sheets and ending up in a wall, due to which the session was red-flagged for about fifteen minutes. This resulted in his slipping down the order, Sebastian Vettel clocking the fastest time, followed by Fernando Alonso with an inspired, last-minute dash in his Renault, shoving down ex-teammate Heikki Kovalainen to third spot. The Ferraris, sadly, were uninspiring, as was Lewis Hamilton. Earlier in the day, the first practice session had also witnessed a red flag, thanks to Romain Grosjean's mishap. This session was interesting in terms of the time of day- as twilight melted into night, the drivers had to deal with the transition from sunshine to darkness- a rather daunting task for them, considering every other race takes place in the afternoon.
Qualifying takes place tomorrow, and Red Bull and Brawn seem to be where most 'experts' are laying their money. Saturday will tell.