India faces race into the unknown

F1 lands in the world's biggest democracy this weekend but the venture's success is far from certain

Formula One and India seem such a natural pairing that it's strange that we've waited this long for the first Indian Grand Prix. Formula One has all the glitz, glamour and heart-stopping action you could ask for, while India is addicted to Bollywood cinema and international sport. It should be a recipe for success – but, having faced a variety of problems thus far, organisers will be taking nothing for granted this weekend.

The venue – the Buddh International Circuit in Greater Noida, 36 miles from the Indian capital of New Delhi – appears ready, at least. It could, indeed, prove the most significant of Formula One's most recent expansionist moves, even with more tracks planned, including a return to North America in 2012 and a race in New Jersey, announced on Tuesday, to debut a year later.

And while in one sense India is a strange venue for a Formula One race – around 30 per cent of the Indian population live on less than £1 a day – that would ignore a booming economy. In June this year a report by Merrill Lynch Wealth Management indicated India is home to the 12th highest number of millionaires: investment in collectables such as luxury cars and boats is on the increase. Last month Lewis Hamilton paraded his 2008 title-winning McLaren through the streets of Bengaluru in order to raise anticipation ahead of the race. An astonishing crowd of 40,000 turned out to see him in action, giving a clear indication support for Formula One is rife in the whole of India.

One cause for concern comes in the form of a group of farmers. Disputes over compensation for the land the circuit is built on emerged in August, with locals declaring themselves unhappy with the project, citing a lack of employment opportunities. Threats to dismantle the track, "with force if necessary", were made by members of the farmers' group, unless adequate compensation is given to more than 300 locals. In addition, confusion over tax rates and issues over visas have clouded preparation for this weekend's event – the Times of India reported in September that a number of drivers and officials had yet to receive their Indian visas. These issues were resolved earlier this month, allowing all team personnel to travel to Delhi.

Regarding fears over threats ranging from farmers to terrorists, the Formula One Group chief executive, Bernie Ecclestone, told the Deccan Herald: "As far as security goes, I don't think we can see anywhere in the world where there isn't a bit of uncertainty these days. I don't think there is the slightest bit of concern, though."

The race organisers Jaypee Sports have also moved to quell any fears regarding security, saying: "We have spent $400m [£251m] and we will spend a few million more if needed. We will do whatever it takes to have a wonderful event."

The grand prix, which is not government-backed, is a chance for India to restore honour after the less than impressive hosting of the Commonwealth Games last year. "We will make up for the shameful memories of the Commonwealth Games,'' said Jaiprakash Gaur, founding chairman of the Jaypee Group. "The world's perception of India is going to change after the grand prix,'' he told The Economic Times.

The Buddh International Circuit will need to avoid problems that have faced new tracks in the past. South Korea barely had tarmac laid for its debut in 2010 while Turkey has been controversially left off the 2012 calendar because of a lack of public support. South Korea, in addition, is already attempting to renegotiate its contract after overshooting budget.

The track is designed to be exciting. In reality, all new tracks built by Hermann Tilke, the man Ecclestone favours when it comes to track architecture, are like that but some flatter to deceive. Valencia for example, which debuted in 2008, has been criticised for its processional races.

Around two-thirds of tickets for the event have been sold. Prices range from £35 for general admission to £500 for a seat on the start-finish straight. Fans will also be able to see Lady Gaga performing after the race on Sunday.

The lone Indian driver on the grid this weekend, HRT's Narain Karthikeyan, believes the race will be huge. "This will be my greatest day, to hold a race in India is something special for everyone," said Karthikeyan. "India is a growing economic power in the world and many companies want to be in this global market. Formula One could be a good platform for them."

Time will tell if India can create international appeal and a setting of great, passionate motor racing. Perhaps this weekend can be the beginning of a wonderful love affair in motor sport but, certainly financially, Ecclestone will be rubbing his hands at the enthusiasm being shown by a nation enthralled by the glitz and glamour of his racing series.

Racing ahead: How F1 colonised the world

1950: the founding races The inaugural Formula One World Championship in 1950 consisted of the British, Monaco, Swiss, Belgian, French and Italian Grands Prix.

The Fifties: expansion in Europe – and beyond The German and Spanish races began in 1951 while a host of GPs that no longer exist – including Argentina and Morocco – were held.

The Sixties and Seventies: F1 spreads across the world Austria (1964) and Canada (1967) were next to be included while the Brazilian and Japanese Grands Prix were incorporated in 1973 and 1976 respectively.

The Eighties: heartland expansion The 1980s saw the introduction of San Marino in 1981, Australia in 1985 and Hungary in 1986.

The 21st century: F1 goes east Following Malaysia's lead in 1999, since the turn of the century new races have been introduced in Bahrain, China, Turkey, Singapore, Abu Dhabi, Korea and now India.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Giants Club: After wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, Uganda’s giants flourish once again

Uganda's giants are flourishing once again

After the wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, elephant populations are finally recovering
The London: After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

Archaeologists will recover a crucial item from the wreck of the London which could help shed more light on what happened in the vessel's final seconds
Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

The invention involves turbojets and ramjets - a type of jet engine - and a rocket motor
10 best sun creams for kids

10 best sun creams for kids

Protect delicate and sensitive skin with products specially formulated for little ones
Tate Sensorium: New exhibition at Tate Britain invites art lovers to taste, smell and hear art

Tate Sensorium

New exhibition at Tate Britain invites art lovers to taste, smell and hear art
Ashes 2015: Nice guy Steven Finn is making up for lost time – and quickly

Nice guy Finn is making up for lost time – and quickly

He was man-of-the-match in the third Test following his recall to the England side
Ashes 2015: Remember Ashton Agar? The No 11 that nearly toppled England

Remember Ashton Agar?

The No 11 that nearly toppled England
Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks