New Delhi: McLaren Mercedes drivers, Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton, are excited at the prospect of racing at the spanking new Buddh International Circuit (BIC) in Greater Noida where the inaugural Formula One Indian Grand Prix will be held next weekend.
While Button, the 2009 World champion, believes that the track would be quite challenging, given the mix of slow and fast corners besides a couple of super-fast straights, 2008 title winner Hamilton is looking forward to a "fantastic" race.
Hamilton, who is no stranger to India having participated in a couple of promotional events, recalled his visits with excitement.
"Yeah, I have been a few times before; we have done a few promotional days there. The last time was just crazy - just after Singapore, we did a demo run in Bangalore and were expecting 5,000 people to turn up. On the day, there were around 40,000 fans - it was just incredible," he said in a release.
The 26-year-old British ace believes that F1 is fast becoming popular in India where cricket is considered the No.1 sport.
"You can't believe how many people are aware of F1 and how many are looking forward to the race next week. There is already a great deal of knowledge about the sport - I think it is going to be a big deal," said Hamilton.
"India's a sports-mad nation - mostly, it is about cricket, which is understandable because they are a very successful cricketing country, but I really think the people of India are going to take F1 to their hearts."
"I really hope India will get turned on to the sport in a big way - it would be amazing to have an entire continent supporting you - and I really hope we can put on a fantastic race!"
Looking ahead to the race itself, Hamilton opined that McLaren would be quite competitive, although Sebastian Vettel and his Red Bull team have already won the two titles this season.
"It is too early to say, but I think we are set to be competitive at all of the final three races. We were quick at Singapore, Japan and Korea, and I think the pattern at the front has sort of settled down now as we reach the end of the season."
"I think we have a car that can be quick anywhere, so I would like to think we would be in the hunt again next weekend," said Hamilton, who has won just two races this year, in Shanghai and Nurburgring.
Meanwhile, the 31-year-old Button said that driving on the BIC would be very challenging since it would be the first time he would be racing on the circuit.
"The first time you run on a new circuit is a strange experience because you are piecing together an incredibly diverse and vivid set of data in your mind. That is quite an intense experience."
"You are quickly gathering everything together, constantly assessing the grip-level, watching for unexpected bumps, checking the kerb-height, run-off areas, pitlane entry and exit, gradient; and that all happens at about 170mph!"
"The track itself has quite a nice mix of corners - the start of the lap is pretty stop-start, there are a couple of long straights mixed with tight hairpins, but it is the end of the lap that is more interesting: there are some pretty high-speed changes of direction through the 'esses' and some gradient change."
"One of the things that looks really interesting is the double-apex banked corner at the back of the circuit - that is pretty unusual. It is sort of a mix between Turn 13 at China and Korea's Turn 11," said Button in his assessment of the track.