It was all too brief, but Lewis Hamilton connected with the crowd

Around 11.10 a.m. Tuesday, as the engine revved up to a distinct roar, racing fans rose to their feet, anticipating the moment that many had only dreamed of. Their dream machine — a 700 HP Formula 1 car — was raring to hit the track any moment.

And the demigod behind the wheel was Lewis Hamilton, the 2008 Formula 1 Drivers' Champion.

Here he was in person, engaging thousands gathered on the NICE peripheral ring road on the city's outskirts. In the silver and red MP4-23 that raced him to the championship, he took a couple of laps on the short 400-m stretch, leaving the fans screaming for more.

Diehard Formula 1 fans, who could not gain entry into the venue, perched on treetops, scaled walls and took vantage positions on rooftops while others — mostly youth — packed the makeshift stands in the venue.

One of the superstars of the circuit, Hamilton connected with the crowd almost instantly when he said: “Namaste Bengaluru,” as he also confessed that he loves chicken tikka masala.

As fans continued to sneak in, the crowd swelled as the time passed by, and there was a brief lull when Hamilton took 10 lucky winners in a Mercedes SL 63 AMG on what was termed as hot laps.

Cool customer

The swelling crowd, wanting to catch a closer glimpse of the car and the star inched closer to the track, making the organisers jittery. But Hamilton seemed to enjoy the hot laps with his hands stretched out of the window to reach fans as he drove close to the barricades.

Hamilton hit the tracks a little later with his F1 car again, this time performing manoeuvres typically associated with the racing car. Smoking the tyres with ‘doughnuts' (swivelling) and revving up the engine to give the feel of a Formula 1 car to the crowd, he clocked close to 150 kmph on the short stretch.

Champion surprised

“What is surprising is that there is a passion (for motorsport) and I know they (Indians) are passionate about cricket,” he later told a packed press conference.

“I have never seen such a reaction. It is incredible and I never expected so many people,” Hamilton said of Tuesday's event, which had been organised by Vodafone as a promotional run-up to the Indian Grand Prix in New Delhi on October 30.