Vodafone organized their ‘Speedfest’ in Mumbai today, in which the 2008 Formula1 World Champion Lewis Hamilton had the headline act. Hamilton came, did what he does best and probably left for Singapore a few hours later. The winner of the 2012 Italian Grand Prix would be itching to repeat his feat in the 2012 Singapore Grand Prix.
But Grand Prix racing aside, this post is about the effort that Vodafone put together to organize the Speedfest. The event was managed by Percept and they did a good job of it! Now before you proceed to read this, do remember that above all my connections with the sport, I am a fan and I write this post as nothing but a pure Formula1 fan!
Firstly, I wonder why it was called a Speedfest! Barring Hamilton’s 5-7 minute (or was it 10?) act, there was nothing that had the element of speed in it! The pre-Hamilton acts included some funny dancers out of a circus (Rambo Circus?) and cheerleaders doing some acts. I agree that sport and entertainment need to meet to attract masses, but as a fan of the sport, I am annoyed at the way Vodafone treated us! Either have other ‘speed’y activities in your fest (I ain’t telling what they could be!) or just call it something else!
I understand that Hamilton’s act had to be limited in duration and to a few high speed runs, donuts et al. But the entertaining acts left much to be considered. The MCs for the event were Mandira Bedi and Manish (who?). While they must have been shortlisted for their diction and ability to engage and hold a crowd together, I certainly don’t expect them to fumble with the name of the event or even the participating team! Mandira fumbled to say ‘Speedfest’ in her opening line, whereas (I heard), Manish pronounce ‘Mclaren’ in a way no Formula1 fan would like! (And you know I am not the biggest Mclaren fan around!)
I was seated in the VIP section and we saw the MCs in their canter undertake two rounds of the barricaded ‘lap’ in BKC. The part that annoyed me the most was when they started throwing Vodafone – Mclaren branded merchandise into the stands for fans to ‘catch’. This certainly wasn’t the treatment that I expected from a multi-national telecom company! And, I wonder if Mclaren were okay with their merchandise being throw at guests / fans because if I were their brand custodian, this would be a certain no-no!
Formula1 is new to India and barring the three days of Indian Grand Prix activity in October, we see very little action in real in the country. So while I would like to thank Vodafone for bringing down Hamilton and the MP4-26 (it seemed), I certainly think that Indian Formula1 fans deserve a better show than this. ESPNStar claim that the viewership of the sport in India is over 20 million, but I would be surprised if a true Formula1 fan would ever enjoy the ‘Speedfest’ that was organized. (I am trying not to be overtly critical!) After all, if you’ve cracked your headline act, how difficult would it be to get your supporting acts right? (Hear: What To Expect From Hamilton’s Demo Run In Mumbai)
I left minutes after Hamilton’s rain soaked drive on the streets of Bandra Kurla Complex. It was a sight to see the car zip across crackling its exhausts at every gear shift and the Pirelli tyres spraying up the rain water on the streets and I know I could see it happen again and again. But again, why put up a circus Vodafone?