BACK ON TRACK?
Oct 25 2013
It won’t be a farewell to FI after all, we’re told Budh Circuit will be afire in 2015 for sure
With the race falling off the 2014 calendar and F1 history littered with tracks that once hosted Grands Prix but no longer do so, there was real apprehension that what had seemed like a good thing to the motorsport fraternity — and the industry in the larger picture — was coming to an end. A series of hectic meeting since Thursday, however seemed to have allayed fears, at least for now.
In the world of Formula One, it is an axiom that nothing is final till the man who runs the sport, Bernie Ecclestone, says so. By that standard, there is something of a silence from Formula One Management, his company, but suggestions emerging from the promoters and especially the manufacturer/teams is that India is too big a market to turn away from.
That being so, there is cautious optimism that Grand Prix action will return to the BIC by 2015. The question is when. The promoters would like to retain the October slot, while FOM has been pushing for a March date to coincide with the first Asian set of races. It is therefore, entirely possible that come 2015, we will see the race run here in the spring, rather than the autumn.
Standing in the way though are issues like the quantum of the license fee the race promoters, Jaypee Sports, pay to Ecclestone. Pegged at between $40 and $45 million, paddock talk has it that they want the rupee’s value pegged at the level it was when their five-year agreement was signed, and not the current market race which is almost 25 per cent higher.
Then there is the issue of tax and customs levies, which in India are extremely complicated. Teams though have largely shrugged off such suggestions, and almost unanimously, the race has received a thumbs up from the driver fraternity.
Said Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg at Thursday’s official press conference, “The track is fantastic to drive, they’ve done a really good job with that. There’s a growing fan base and a lot of fans in India. It’s great to be here and it’s a pity that there’s no Indian Grand Prix next year and I hope that maybe some time in the future we can come back again.
Added Mark Webber of Red Bull Racing, “Yeah, Nico’s right. Obviously the fan base is certainly growing very, very fast. I know cricket is the number one sport here by a long way but they’ve certainly shown some incredible enthusiasm to try and understand and get some... attract some interest in the sport.
“They’re proud to have a very high profile sport which Formula One is and the track layout is sensational. The enthusiasm… they’re doing what they can to hold a very nice event here, but it doesn’t seem to have been enough for next year. I hope that we can come back in the future.”
Sameer Gaur of Jaypee Sports is clear that he would like to see F1 cars back on his track.
"Such a massive facility has been made here, an investment of more than $400 million in the circuit apart from the license fee. We have a contract so I see no reason why we won't come back," Gaur was quoted as having said.
"About the organisers' finances, I would say we had to prove in 2011 our credibility of making the circuit and holding the race. We did that. So the credibility is already there and I am pretty sure that we shall be doing the races. As far as I am concerned, the (2015) race is on."
In terms of enthusiasm therefore, there is plenty behind a return in 2015. The question, though remains. What does Bernie want?