“You have several good drivers on your roads, I must say.” This admiration from Lewis Hamilton of Indian drivers of four-wheelers and autorickshaws in the Capital comes more out of sheer awe than any touch of sarcasm. “It takes some skill to drive on the cross-roads where cars are coming from three, four directions. I was wondering how they drive without ‘touching’ one another. It’s amazing.”
The former world champion for sure knows a thing or two about driving. He categorically disagrees that F1 inadvertently encourages rash driving among young fans.
“F1 is a sport. It is organised in a safe environment and there are rules. You don’t have incoming traffic there or cross-roads to negotiate. We have safety measures in place and there is help. When I am driving on the roads, I am relaxed. Perhaps, I am too slow (as compared to the speed he touches on the F1 circuit). I guess, we drivers give a good impression on those watching us.”
On his seventh visit to India in fairly quick succession, Hamilton is generous enough to describe this country as his “second home”. “I love coming here. I love the people, you have so many here. They are knowledgeable, humble and so warm. You have a rich culture and it is special being here each time.”
Ask Hamilton what would make the Buddh International Circuit (BIC) an iconic destination, he has only one mantra.
“It is the fans who make it very special. Look at places like Singapore, Silverstone, Spa, Montreal… the crowd that comes to watch the race makes it such a wonderful experience for the drivers. I guess, here too, the fans are the ones who will help make it a great destination.”
On whether Narain Karthikeyan driving for Force India will help increase the fan base for F1 in India, Hamilton said: “Narain is a good driver but unfortunately, doesn’t have a good car.”