Saturday, 16 June, 2007

Is India geared up for Formula One?

Photo: Mukund Bhute
Narain Karthikeyan making a point
B D Narayankar

PUNE: India is on the verge of holding F1 Grand Prix at New Delhi somewhere in October 2009. But does the city boast of holding such a mega event?

Joining issue with the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) President Suresh Kalmadi, F1 racer Narain Karthikeyan expressed concern here on Friday over the lack of infrastructure to hold F1 race in Delhi. He, however, expressed happiness that F1 racing was coming to India.

Though F1 tracks requires just 4.5 to 6 km long stretch of land, much of the land is needed for the actual layout, including spectator facilities, pit garages, hospitality and parking space among others.

The Sepang circuit in Malaysia, for instance, was constructed on 2,300 acres and Shanghai International Circuit was constructed over a 1,000-acre area. However, these are very lavish facilities. Istanbul Park, in Turkey, which produces some fascinating racing is built on just under 500 acres of land.

Hence, there is a huge responsibility on India to make the event successful by providing such an infrastructure for the mega event on time.

Problems of hosting F1 in India lay in the logistics. “Right now there is no infrastructure to hold F1 race,” Narain said. According to F1 Grand Prix organisers, a F1 team requires as much as a 100 hotel rooms needed to service corporate guests, media and spectators. Also required are the infrastructure facilities to transport the considerable amount of equipment the teams and event staff require for hold each round of the currently 18-round series.

Asked whether he was happy about the financial resources to hold F1 racing in India, Narain said business magnate like Vijay Mallya and few others have shown immense interest in financing and popularising the sport. “But things just oozes out quickly and subsides at the same speed,” he said.

However, one should not compare the event held at Bahrain. “The kingdom of Bahrain had unlimited funds and could hold the race successfully. Whether we have such funds? I don’t think,” Narain said.

He, however, had words of appreciation for IOA for succeeding in organizing such an event in India. F1's Indian GP in 2009 would satisfy the legions of Indian fans of the sport who were currently glued to the television on Sundays and turn up in droves at various venues where large viewing screen are put up, he said.

Having an Indian F1-track would also allow India to bid for other international race series, including the A1 GP, where a team represents India, Formula 3, GP2, motorcycle races. In addition, a number of Asian series' and local events can also now be hosted, Narain said.

On his personal front, he said he was happy to have been associated with Williams for F1 racings. “The team has been exceedingly well and it will be great driving with them,” he said.

And where would you stand by 2009? “I am hopeful to be a full-time driver. Also I have age with me. I am just 32 today,” Narain said.

Commenting on the budding talents Karan Chandu and Arman Ibrahim, he said: “India has lot of potential and India’s future is bright.”

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