Ten year-old Nowrooz Syed poses for a photograph at the Redbull technician station in the pit lane during a break in the Formula One Canadian Grand Prix at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal on Friday.
Photograph by: Dario Ayala, The Gazette
MONTREAL — On any given Formula One race day, Nowrooz Syed is firmly planted in front of his family’s television, eyes focused on the multi-coloured cars racing on tracks around the world. No matter the time of day that the race starts, Syed doesn’t miss a lap.
That is not unlike millions of F1 fans around the world, who tune it to cheer on their favourite team and driver week in and week out. But Nowrooz Syed is only 10. And until three years ago, he wasn’t an F1 fan.
In fact, he hated it.
“In 2010, I hated F1,” Nowrooz said. “Whenever in the morning I was just watching my TV, and my brother would change the channel and I would hate it. So I was bored, so I just went to sleep.”
A year later, though, Nowrooz decided to watch one of the races with his brother.
“And I actually liked it,” he said with a smile. “It was fun to watch.”
The Grade 4 student at Westmount Park elementary school wrote to The Gazette a few weeks ago about his passion for F1 and asking if he could help the paper cover the race. While that wasn’t possible (F1 limits The Gazette to three accreditations for Grand Prix reporters) Infiniti Canada helped arrange the next best thing for Nowrooz and his two brothers, Nowaz, 15, and Nazmus, 21.
On Friday, the three attended the practice sessions at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in the opulent Infiniti Red Bull Racing paddock, watching Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber do their thing from above pit lane.
“I am happy and excited. This is my first time here, so I am very happy,” said Nowrooz, his smile brimming from ear to ear as the Red Bull cars raced onto the wet Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.
The highlight for Nowrooz was seeing just how fast the cars go in real life, and a visit to the Red Bull garage during the morning practice session, where he got to listen in on the team radio.
Nowaz, the brother who kept changing the channel on Nowrooz and turned him into an F1 fan, didn’t believe his younger brother when he told him all three Syed’s would be attending the Friday practice session. For Nowaz, a Marymount Academy student, the highlight of the day was hearing the cars.
“I want to hear the noise of an F1 car and see the cars in general,” Nowaz said as he kept his eyes glued on the track as the cars roared by.
The middle brother is a Ferrari fan, but on this day he just soaked it all in.
Said Nazmus, the eldest brother: “I was kind of shocked that Infiniti did this. It is quite nice. I thought maybe they would give us a signed hat or general admission tickets.”
Like the rest of his siblings, this was the first time Nazmus was at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve on race weekend, with the car zooming around behind him. His only other visits were on open house day.
“I have seen it on TV, but this is awesome,” the Concordia University Environmental Studies student said.
Nazmus joked that after this, his youngest brother is in his good books pretty much forever.
The one thing that impressed Nazmus most was just how fast the F1 cars really are, and hearing the roar of the powerful V8s. Needless to say, the roaring engines impressed Nazmus and his two brothers, who got up close and personal with the Red Bull cars in the garage during the morning practice session.
“This might make my year,” Nowrooz said when he spoke to The Gazette his classroom a few weeks before the race, and that is exactly what Infiniti was hoping for.
“Making dreams come true and giving a unique experience to someone,” said Wendy Durward, the director of Infiniti Canada. “To have that passion for the sport and having the ability to make it come true is really why we did it.
“It’s a unique opportunity and it reflects, really, what Infiniti is all about. To see his face this morning, it’s one of those things when you know you did the right thing,” Durward said Friday.
While many kids his age might hate waking to watch the F1 races at the odd hours many are shown live on Canadian television, Nowrooz never misses one.
“I love the sport so much that I just want to watch every race,” he said when asked about getting out of bed at odd hours.
While F1 fans are usually enthralled by the speed and sound of the sport, Nowrooz says something else grabbed his attention.
“The crashes and the overtakes,” he said, hardly hiding his enthusiasm at the thought of mangled cars hitting the wall.
For Nowrooz, Red Bull quickly became his favourite team.
“When I watched my first race, they got my attention very fast,” he said. “And I like them very much, because they are the best.”
The Montreal race is special to Nowrooz, even if he had never had a chance to be at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve before Friday.
“It feels great because I know it is in Montreal,” he said. “I hear the car sometimes when I open my balcony door. It feels awesome because I don’t really get to hear F1 cars in real life. I hear them on TV, but that is good.”
Nowrooz said Vettel, the three-time world champion, if his favourite driver.
“He’s like a hero to me, in a way,” he said.
Nowrooz’s best memory of F1 racing to date is the 2011 race in Montreal, which was marred by heavy rains and red flags. Not to mention several accidents, which may also be a reason he remembers the race.
With three passionate F1 fans in their downtown Montreal apartment, there are often heated debates between the brothers about the sport.
“We have debates on who is better” between Vettel and Fernando Alonso of Ferrari, Nowrroz said of his brother Nowaz’s favourite driver. “Vettel is better because he is a triple world champion.”
For the brothers, waking up in time for the races is a team effort.
While Nowrooz gets the wake-up call for the early morning races broadcast from Asia and Malaysia, he is the one waking his brothers up for the races in Europe, which generally come on at a more reasonable hour of about 8 a.m. in Montreal.
In Montreal this weekend, Nowrooz will be cheering for Vettel to win. But he does admit if it can’t be Vettel, he wouldn’t mind seeing Lewis Hamilton take the checkered flag.
A Vettel win and a lot of crashes would make 2013 the most memorable F1 race for Nowrooz.
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