Greater Noida, Oct 28: The youngest four-time Formula 1 World champion, Sebastian Vettel, put the uncertainty over the 2015 Indian Grand Prix in perspective by saying “it’s a shame we are not racing here next year”.
The 2013 Indian GP will be best remembered for Vettel’s crowning after storming to his third consecutive victory at the Buddh International Circuit (BIC) Sunday.
Vettel was not diplomatic like most others when he said the show at Greater Nodia must go on. For that to happen, the work has to start in all sincerity by the organisers. Their immediate tas is to take F1 to masses and get into a dialogue with both the state and central governments on treating motor racing as a sport and not entertainment.
Race organisers Jaypee Sports International (JPSI) made India proud by building the $400 million facility and getting a truly global sport to the country. But they need to do much more to promote the event by marketing it well.
Though a near-capacity Grandstand saw Vettel celebrating his historic feat, the spectator interest has been dwindling over the three years. Organisers claimed a Sunday turn-out of 60,000, but some sparsely populated stands in the 100,000-capacity circuit mocked at them.
The glamour quotient was at its lowest this time and little was done to create a buzz in the lead up to the racing weekend.
“I would give myself a nine on ten for the way we managed the event. Promotion wise I agree we need to do a lot more. But you have to understand promotion depends on the state of economy and in the current situation, we have done the best we can,” JPSI chief executive Sameer Gaur told IANS.
It is no secret that the Jaypee Group is sitting on a debt of more than Rs.60,000 crore ($13 billion). It pays $40 million (around Rs.230 crore) annually to host the F1 race.
Gaur, however, is ready to bet his life for the F1 return in 2015, but admits government support is a must in the long run, much like most other venues enjoy.
“It is okay if the government doesn’t share the hosting fees. But if they embrace F1, the issues of taxation faced by us, teams and Formula One Management (FOM), we all could breathe easy. It would also be great if they can help us promote the event. The government has a much bigger reach than what we have as a private company. It must realise the sport raises the country’s profile immensely,” explained Gaur.
To start with the basics, the tax and bureaucratic hurdles could be addressed if the government recognises the Indian motorsports body, the FMSCI, as it has already done in the case of 52 national sports federations (NSF).
“It is time we got government recognition. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) recently made our parent body, the FIA, its full member,” FMSCI president Vicky Chandhok told IANS Monday.
“The sports ministry wanted us to adopt certain guidelines and we have done that. Now I will be meeting the sports minister soon and I am confident we will get things done in the next three weeks. It is not only important in regard to F1, but to the growth of Indian motorsports as a whole,” said Chandhok.
Chandhok also made a valid point on expanding F1′s reach across the country.
“The promotion cannot only be Delhi centric. We need to reach out to more and more people, especially in south India where there is a substantial fan base.”
The talk leading to the Indian GP was all about its future with most in the F1 fraternity saying a comeback on the calendar anytime soon would be tough. The nay sayers are likely be proved wrong if India gets its act together.
“Some countries are easier to go to and vice-versa. F1 is a multinational sport and if there is a lot of paper work required to come to India, we have to accept the procedures, so long the interest is there. As of now, I feel India has not realised the potential of F1. I hope things go in the right direction as it is such an important market for our sport,” concluded McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh.