Lewis Hamilton, the 2008 Formula One champion, who was in the city for a promotional event here on Friday, enthused over the proposed Indian Grand Prix that is scheduled to take place next year in Noida, New Delhi.
“It's been long overdue. It's been in the pipeline for a while now, and when it does happen, I imagine it's going to be spectacular. Judging by the enthusiasm of the crowd here, it will certainly be noisier than the Turkish Grand Prix, where the atmosphere was quite dull.”
The 25-year-old McLaren driver took the winners of the SMS and online contest conducted by Vodafone on hair-raising laps around the Madras Motor Race Track, Irungattukottai, where a sizeable throng of racing enthusiasts had gathered.
By the end of the event, the tarmac wore a number of circular rubber imprints laid down by Hamilton's tyres while performing the ‘donut', a manoeuvre that tests the limits of a car's turning radius while spewing fiendish quantities of smoke.
Later, addressing a press conference, Hamilton reflected on the first-lap incident that saw him crash out of the Italian Grand Prix last weekend, and also fall out of the lead in the driver's championship.
He said that he could have avoided the ambitious, failed overtaking move on Ferrari's Felipe Massa, but defended his aggressive driving style.
“It's a split-second decision, and I would have pulled it off nine times out of ten.”
Hamilton spoke out against team orders, an issue that has split Formula One following the recent controversy surrounding the German Grand Prix, in which Ferrari was fined for instructing its driver Felipe Massa to let teammate Fernando Alonso pass him.
“We (McLaren) don't have team orders,” he said. “I haven't experienced it. I don't know how Felipe, for instance, must be feeling. When you have team orders, it's not necessarily the best driver that wins, just the guy the team favours.”
Breaking into a boyish grin, he also recalled the first time he met McLaren's long-time Team Principal Ron Dennis, at an awards ceremony when he was a 10-year-old karting champion.
“My dad had given me this autograph book, and was pointing out to me – ‘that's Michael Schumacher, that's Damon Hill.'
“When he told me about Ron Dennis, I had to meet him, since I was a huge fan of Ayrton Senna, who had won so many titles with McLaren,” he said.
“So I went up to him and told him I would be winning the World Championship one day, in his car, and he said to me, ‘call me in nine years.'
“Three years later, he called me himself (to offer him a place in McLaren's Young Driver Support Programme), which was even better.”