The first ever Formula One race in India took place on 30th September of the 2011 season as the 17th race, won by Sebastian Vettel for Red Bull. The next two years saw the same man win the Indian GP hosted in the freshly constructed Buddh International Circuit in Greater Noida, near New Delhi. The Indian GP has been axed in 2014 citing tax problems with the Uttar Pradesh government as the reason. The UP government does not see F1 as a sport but rather an entertainment and thus levied heavy tax which is being currently contested in court.
After missing out on the action last year and again this year too, questions regarding the intentions of the Indian GP have been raised again. The Indian GP was estimated to generate around $150 million in revenue each year and employ more than 10,000 people directly and indirectly. The opportunity for the corporates to advertise and showcase their brands internationally was expected to be a huge incentive. Airtel took the initiative to host all the three Indian Grand Prixes. Despite three years of experience in hoisting Formula One races, India doesn’t seem to have made much progress.
The organizer of the Buddha International Circuit, with investments adding close to $500 million on building the track and auxiliary infrastructure, is in a financial trouble of their own. These races are very expensive to host and usually the government shares the burden in most of the countries. Being a developing nation, India is neither interested in promoting a “sport” which it doesn’t recognize nor is it at the liberality to spend on an expensive and glamourous sport like F1.
The awareness level amongst the Indians was quite low till the races were actually held in India. Indians are cricket lovers and the complex, technologically advanced sport doesn’t excite the average Indian. To make this sport viable, the ticket prices had to be high which in turn became a matter of concern.
Motorsport in India is not in the limelight as Narain Karthiyean is the only Indian to race a F1 car for Jordan but failed to impress with his erratic driving. Karan Chandok too had his chance in a F1 car and also as a race commentator but it is not enough for his sustenance in F1. Force India is the most significant contribution by an Indian in the F1 arena when Indian liquor baron Vijay Mallya bought the Skypar team. However, the team is based in the UK with no privileges, what-so-ever, provided to the Indian engineers or drivers to enter F1 through it.
F1 boss, Bernie Ecclestone is tight lipped about future of F1 in India. With an already packed schedule and more countries tries to get a piece of the F1 pie, Bernie has the freedom to choose the highest bidder for his Formula One races. India without money and support may losse out again in 2016.