Marine Drive residents put brakes on F1 champ

Sep 12, 2012, 06:37 IST | Vinod Kumar Menon

Lewis Hamilton will not be zipping down Queen's Necklace this Sunday, thanks to objections raised by residents' associations; the event will now take place at Bandra-Kurla Complex

It’s a formula that didn’t click with residents of Marine Drive. And now the September 16 event featuring British F1 driver Lewis Hamilton would be held at Bandra Kurla Complex (BKC).

Marine Drive, McLaren's Hamilton
No place to race: McLaren’s Hamilton, the 2008 world champion, is set to come down to Mumbai after winning the Italian GP last Sunday, his third win of the season. Pic/Shadab Khan, AFP

Locals have cited a number of reasons why they felt the high-profile event should not be held in their SoBo backyard. Ashad Mehta, president of Oval Cooperage Residents Association said, “We are not against the sporting event; such performances are a must for the city of Mumbai. But our only contention was that it should not be held at Marine Drive and we presented our point of view before competent authorities.”

McLaren's Hamilton
File pic

‘Take it slow’
When asked to elaborate, Mehta maintained the major issues for them were that the promenade should not be commercialised, and secondly the Queen’s Necklace has witnessed several accidents because of rash and negligent driving, some claiming lives of innocents. Therefore, events like this, which involve high speed, should be discouraged on Marine Drive.

Nikhil Banker, a member of Marine Drive Residents Action Group, echoed similar sentiments. “There’s a project to nominate the Oval Maidan precinct, including Marine Drive, as a UNESCO world heritage site. So, any commercialisation of the promenade should not be encouraged. Moreover, the roads between Chowpatty and Nariman Point are not fit for any high-speed events, considering the entire Marine Drive stretch has witnessed numerous accidents and deaths,” he told MiD DAY.

Breathing easy
He added, “We the residents have been fighting for open spaces. If one such major sporting event is permitted here, many more may happen in the future, which would just nullify our efforts. Hundreds and thousands of citizens and foreign tourists come here to enjoy the cool sea breeze and the peaceful ambience. Residents are already enduring hassles during cricket matches played at Wankhede stadium.”

Anil Bhatia, secretary of Marine Drive Council, said, “Our plea was only to save Marine Drive for the masses so they can get a chance to breathe fresh air without restrictions. Maharashtra tourism department should preserve this open access to Marine Drive 24X7. Such sporting performances would encourage people who love speed. They would ask, ‘If he can do it, why can’t I?’ And this will lead to more mishaps.”

Here’s where the action is
According to organisers, a 1.2-km stretch (near Asian Heart hospital and MTNL building) at BKC is where the event would take place now. The entire sweep is a concrete road, with no speed bumps or impediments, making it a perfect setting for the performance.

The entire route would be barricaded, and F1 atmosphere would be created here. Stands would be put up and seating arrangements would be made for guests and invitees with an uninterrupted view of the performance. Though Hamilton would drive for about an hour, the entire event would last 90 minutes. The organisers are in touch with the traffic department to finalise the actual timing of the event and to discuss the modalities on traffic diversion and the period for stopping other vehicles from entering this route.

Organisers speak
“The Marine Drive citizens’ group had some reservations in holding the event, which was originally planned here. We respect their sentiments and have decided to shift the venue to BKC, which was our alternate choice,” said the official spokesperson for Vodafone.  

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