Formula One (F1) Supremo Bernie Ecclestone all but eliminated India from the 2014 F1 calendar; now, it appears like this weekend’s race may not happen. The honeymoon is over – a separation and divorce may be next in Delhi.
When pressed by the media if the Indian Grand Prix would be on the schedule for next year, Ecclestone stated this past summer,
“Is India going to happen next year? Probably not.”
Whether political, logistical or for any other reason, the race that only originated in 2011 is on shaky ground.
Now, published reports state the Indian Supreme Court will hear a petition which calls for a cancellation of this weekend’s event. According to the request, not enough taxes have been paid to the state. Apparently, the government considers motorsports as entertainment and not sport, so tax exemptions are not available and therefore Buddh International Circuit owners are responsible for additional tax levies.
It’s the economy
The economy hasn’t helped the race organizers and leading up to the event, it’s been estimated that less than half of all tickets have been purchased for this weekend. There are no Indian drivers in F1 and combined with an indifferent government, tickets sales have been slow – which is where the track owners make their money. It should be noted that the Buddh International Circuit was built with private funds.
The facility seats 100,000 and the inaugural race in 2011 had near capacity of 95,000. However, last season saw a one-third drop in attendance. New Delhi lies in the northern part of the country and is the capital of India with nearly 22 million living in the metropolitan area. Something to mull over is the fact that Delhi was home to the 2010 Commonwealth Games, which in-turn were criticized amid controversies surrounding the organization and health of the event. Low spectator counts were common – sports have historically had poor turnouts in India.
Whether the race happens or not this weekend, assuredly much promotional work is needed in order for this event to occur in the future. Some believe the race has not been marketed properly to the Indian public and thus, is not looked on as an important sporting event amongst a country of 1.2 billion.
The chances of the courts not allowing the race this weekend to continue our slim, but certainly the troubles are admittedly real and efforts to make a success of the Indian Grand Prix may be exhausted.
Not all is lost for the beleaguered track organizers in Delhi. Ecclestone would like the race to be moved to an earlier period in the schedule and is willing to put the event on the calendar for March of 2015 – the track owners are fine with the potential change.
What the legacy will be of the Indian Grand Prix remains to be seen.