By Pulasta Dhar and Shruti Dhapola
The thrill of watching a Formula One driver take off right in front of you, is one that not everyone in India has experienced. We certainly hadn’t, so yes, as we headed down to the Bandra-Kurla complex (BKC), for Vodafone’s Speed Fest event with McLaren Mercedes’ Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton, we were excited.
As we entered, the first question on our minds was why are they giving us earplugs? That one got answered as soon as Lewis Hamilton came on the tracks and revved up his MP-24 McLaren Mercedes, tearing through BKC and our eardrums. Even Mumbai’s truant rain couldn’t put a dampener on the excitement and adrenalin rush.
Hamilton’s Speed Fest with Vodafone was probably the ego boost the F1 champ needed after the booing at Monza, Italy, last week. Italy might have turned their noses up at him, but Mumbai welcomed him with open arms and loud cheers.
So what did we feel when the McLaren Mercedes zoomed past us? Pure shock and awe.
Nothing had prepared us for the sheer speed with which Hamilton drove. And this mind you, was way slower than what he’s used to driving in an actual Formula One race. By his own admission he touched only 220 or so.
But 220 was indeed good enough as the McLaren absolutely rip-roared through the track, leaving an strong smell of burning rubber and the feeling that you would never be able to hear again. And this was just one car. Imagine what it must be at a Formula One race!
Lewis Hamilton revved it up for the fans. Reuters
When Hamilton swerved between two intersections, swiveled on the car’s wheels, made a couple of donuts on the road, veered a bit in reverse and still managed to align his car perfectly to go the way he wanted too, he transformed himself from outspoken driver to a magician in approximately two seconds.
The other thing we loved about him was how he acknowledged the fans. He stopped his F1 car to within touching distance of the crowds on two occasions, gave a thumbs-up, hit the accelerator and zoomed past—transforming from rash driver to fan favourite.
And when he rolled down the window of a Mercedes Benz (in which he drove three lucky winners), clambered out of it and waved to the fans amid a thick layer of smoke… it didn’t matter who Hamilton was, what F1 is and what car he was driving. Everyone was simply in love with him.
The best part of the night for us however, was when we were leaving and we suddenly saw a SUV with Hamilton sitting inside. We called out ‘Lewis! Lewis!’ and he looked up, glanced and waved back. We went home with a smile, a little dehydrated and deaf, but oh so alive from the adrenalin rush.