Bob Constanduros writes:
So. The first Indian Grand Prix has come and gone, and frankly, the positives far outweigh the negatives. I also hope that we commentators - that's Ben and I - helped to make the race exciting for the locals seeing their first GP live. They were a wonderfully enthusiastic crowd, who really embraced F1 as we saw right from the start of the action on Friday through to the race itself.
I say that I hoped that we helped make the race exciting, because after the race, Tweets suggested it was a boring one. It's interesting - and this has happened before - that when you're commentating on a race, and explaining it 100 percent regarding the action all the way through the field, it's really intense for you and therefore not the slightest bit boring. You are describing all the possibilities, the potentials, what might happen, who is gaining on whom, where the place changes might come in X number of laps.
Sometimes - particularly among those involved in racing - my co-commentators go quiet because nothing's happening among the leaders. These are perhaps professional ex-drivers, who, as we all know, are only interested in winning, and if there's no chance of a change of a leader, they're not interested in the battle for 14th or whatever. For those of us providing entertainment, any tussle or battle will do.
Anyway, let's get back to this Indian Grand Prix. Waking up this morning, the local newspapers were full of the F1 Rocks Metallica concert (with Biffy Clyro) which didn't happen. There were safety concerns over barriers apparently, so the concert was postponed for a day. Well, that was OK as far as the organisers were concerned, but not as far as the fans and local officials. The latter said they had given authorisation for Friday not Saturday, and it all became academic when the fans trashed the equipment and the stage. Cue arrest of promoters staff; well, in India, someone has to be blamed.
There were a lot of people at the Buddh International Circuit today, that's for sure. We arrived pretty early - in spite of the previous night's birthday celebrations - and it was pretty easy to get in, no traffic. We gave our sullen driver a proper pass and strict instructions to pick up Ben at 18.00 hrs - of which more shortly. Inside the circuit, the action slowly built. We had two support races which were fun and provided a British winner in Jordan King who had a couple of podiums over the weekend, as did Alice Powell. Gerhard Berger's nephew Lucas Auer was a two-time winner.
Then came the drivers' parade, and already there was a pretty good crowd. The drivers were reacting well to the crowd as they circulated on a lovely selection of cars, although whether you would actually risk an XK120 or a pre-war Lagonda on these roads and in this traffic is slightly debatable.
The grid was nice and busy with a fabulous view down from the high grandstand which shields it from the sun. We were right up there in the Gods - apparently Bernie has apologised to the TV commentators and has promised them a view next year which might also be up there. In which case they are going to need more than just one very slow service lift to transport people and equipment up to the fourth floor.
And so the build-up continued, lots of personalities on the grid with Bernie looking particularly sprightly in spite of celebrating his 81st birthday on the Friday. Sir Richard Branson was there too, Rowan Atkinson was lurking somewhere and would provide one of the moments of the race - more of that in a moment. But there was a great crowd, and they showed great respect as Formula One correctly paid tribute to two fallen figures of motor sport: Dan Wheldon and Marco Simoncelli. We got this absolutely right, I'm glad to say, and it was a fitting tribute. Well done Formula One.
And then into the race and where we came in: an intense 90 minutes or so and a great race. I loved it; there was, I felt, plenty going on, lots of potential. I think we got the Massa versus Hamilton incident just right: yes, it was Felipe's fault but he probably couldn't see Lewis. We see him looking in his mirrors but he can't see Hamilton because he's in a blind spot. Is it time for bigger mirrors; those of us of a certain age will remember a wonderful Brockbank cartoon with a massive mirror for a driver. 'Now will you take a hint?'
It also provided the aforementioned moment of the race as Rowan Atkinson watched the replay in astonishment, complete with lips about to say something unmentionable and a distinct Mr Bean moment. It was brilliant.
I'm sure Sebastian got the biggest cheer of the year when he climbed out of his car, which just reflected the fascination that India has with Formula One. The entire race had gone off perfectly, organisation impeccable. The local media quizzed the drivers in the press conference, probably the longest of the year.
But then we lapsed back into Indian organisation or at least, Ben did. In spite of providing the driver with a press parking pass, he was nowhere to be seen at 18.00 hrs when we had arranged to meet him. Eventually he was traced and swore that he would be there in five (Indian) minutes. In the end, he was a full hour late, and in spite of then driving at breakneck speed to the airport, Ben missed his Emirates flight by ten minutes. He's bought another, very expensive one, and he ain't paying. And I've arranged another driver for tomorrow. The person who arranged travel and transfers had switched off their 'phone for the day. My comment on that is unrepeatable, but I suggest they look for another job on Monday.