The entire world took notice when India hosted its first ever Indian F1 Grand Prix at the Buddh International Circuit (BIC) on October 30, 2011. It hasn’t even been two years since then and we can already see a big question mark hovering over the future of Formula One in India.
F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone recently hinted that the Indian GP would not be a part of the 2014 championship.
“Is India going to happen next year? Probably not,” Bernie told Reuters at the Hungaroring on Sunday. On being asked about the reason behind this, all Bernie had were these two words- “Very political.”
It may be noted that the cost of construction of the BIC alone stands at $400 million. Additionally, the Formula One Management (FOM) charges almost $40 million annually. As if all this wasn’t enough, JPSI also has to pay INR 10 crores to obtain an NOC for conducting a F1 race. And on top of all this, the good chaps at sports ministry refuse to recognize Formula 1 as a sport!!
Vicky Chandkok, president of Federation of Motor Sports Clubs of India (FMSCI), has been busy talking to FOM and FIA on India’s behalf and feels that this isn’t the end of India’s tryst with Formula 1. “I don’t think this is the end of the Indian GP. Jaypee and the FOM have been in talks for holding the race in early 2015. It doesn’t make sense for them to hold the race in October of 2014 and then March or April 2015. The costs involved in hosting the race are too high, making it impractical,” Vicky said.
JPSI, however, doesn’t seem too optimistic. “We are still holding talks with the FOM as well as the FIA. We can’t comment on the way forward till the 2014 calendar is announced in September,” JPSI senior vice-president Askari H. Zaidi recently said.
It is very possible that Ecclestone might have concerns with the ‘political’ issues surrounding the Indian Formula 1 race. “Since the first year itself we have had problems dealing with the customs as well as tax issues. The sports ministry’s NOC arrived at the very last minute over the last two years. This, despite the fact that we have been depositing Rs 10 crore directed by the sports ministry in time,” JPSI sources said.
“The tax issues were a major concern for all the teams and these were communicated to Bernie. We are trying to approach the sports ministry through FMSCI president Chandhok to find a long-term solution,” sources said.
Chandhok said that he would soon be in touch with the ministry. “I have sought time to meet the officials in the sports ministry. We have been granted the NOC for this year but we want a solution for the future. Countries like Malaysia and Singapore have realised this and they are getting support from their respective governments,” he said.
The sports ministry doesn’t seem to be in a mood to take F1 more seriously and plans to continue treating it as a “mode of entertainment”. “Why don’t you ask Bernie to wave off the humongous race fees that he is charging from JPSI? It doesn’t matter to us whether the race stays in India or not. Our stands remains clear that the organisers have to pay us 25 per cent of the fees that they pay to the international body to a maximum of Rs 10 crore to obtain an NOC for hosting the race,” sports secretary PK Deb said.