The exhilarating F1 experience in Istanbul
Indian travellers can fly within 6 hrs 30 minutes directly from Mumbai into Istanbul,a country known as the Cradle of Civilization. We at Compact Travels were promoting the F1 Grand Prix in Istanbul and to getfirsthand experience, I planned to see the second edition of the Grand Prix .Along with me were a reporter and a photographer of a leading TV news agency who were hosted by Compact Travels to see the F1 and experience firsthand the only city in the world which lies in two continents.
On our arrival in Istanbul, we had a fine Turkish breakfast at Tamara restaurant which was very close to the BulvarPalasHotel where we would be staying. We were eager to witness the qualifying session which was scheduled that afternoon to decide on who would take the Pole Position on Race day. This was the 14th Grand Prix race of the year and although Alonso was leading and so was Renault for the Constructors’ Table with both Schumacher and Ferrari in second place, it was indeed a crucial race to reduce the gap between Schumacher and Alonso and likewise for Ferrari to reduce the gap with Renault.
Istanbul is a city which lies in two continents – Asia and Europe although the city comprises of three parts – the European side which has the Historical Peninsula to the south of the Golden Horn and the Galata district to the north and then there is the New City on the Asian side. The city has a growing history of motor sports after its inaugural event which was held in 2005. Not only for the locals, but visitors to Istanbul can combine the three days of F1 with an extension to see some other fascinating cities in Turkey. Istanbul is an excellent blend of the old and the new with its domes and minarets which dominate the old city and takes you back in time to the days of the Ottoman Empire and Constantinople. The modern city is bustling with activity and you find bars, clubs, shops, cafes. One of the areas which can be explored 24/7 is Taksim Square, where you can enjoy shopping, fine cuisine and night life as well.
Coming back to the track at Istanbul, whether it’s the organizers, the drivers or the sponsors, they all agree that the Istanbul Park circuit is undoubtedly one of the best tracks in the world. The 5.378 kilometre track is only the third track after Imola in San Marino and Interlagos in Brazil which goes in the anti-clockwise direction, which makes the Istanbul circuit all the more exciting. The circuit has a seating capacity of 1,30,000, but on Race Day it appeared as if there were as many as 2,00,000 people. So all you F1 fans, if ever you want to see one of the finest sporting events in a spectacular environment, Istanbul is the place to be.
The only flip side was the scorching heat and I remember on race day the temperature touched 40 degrees. However, there are several activities around the circuit which can help you keep your cool – you can gulp a couple of beers or soft drinks, take a picture in one of the finest cars on display wearing a helmet and posing like an F1 driver or carry home souvenirs of your favourite teams from one of the several merchandise shops. Kids too can ride something similar to a quad bike or play a few games or enjoy the ambience of 22 cars racing on the circuit at 300 to 330 km/hr.
And to unwind after the race you can experience a Turkish night, see a cultural show or fine belly dancing or even be surprised at some of the talented Turkish singers who sing a few songs in Hindi besides more than 8 to 10 other languages to make you feel at home. Combine it with some fine Turkish cuisine and gulp down a couple of raki, taking small sips at a time. It may also be a good idea to experience Hamam or the Turkish Bath, which is a rejuvenating experience especially at the end of a very hot summer day. This was end of Day 1 in Istanbul which was tiresome but full of fun.