22 October 2010
India gets positive report from Ecclestone
Bernie Ecclestone has expressed his satisfaction with the progress being made with India's new F1 circuit after a flying visit en route to Korea.
Having endured doubts about this year's addition to the F1 calendar almost to the eve of the Korean Grand Prix, Bernie Ecclestone has issued a more favourable progress report for next year's scheduled Indian race.
A flying visit to the construction site in Greater Noida, on the outskirts of New Delhi, allowed the 79-year old to assess the work already underway and, following the controversy surrounding India's hosting of the Commonwealth Games, he was happy to give a positive view.
"I can't praise things enough," he told a gathering of reporters, "Everything was much better than I expected - the track is much better than many."
A feature for the BBC's F1 coverage recently showed the site to be little more than a typical construction site, with little semblance of track amid the gradually rising infrastructure, but Ecclestone was able to see the topography of the circuit, and insisted that he had confidence that private developer Jaypee Group would deliver on time.
"If the race was going to be held next month, I would be happy to say that it would be there," he claimed, "There was so much doubt about the Commonwealth Games because of silly media reports, and people warned me not to expect too much, but I am so happy with the progress of work. I have no fears about the circuit, which is going to be much better than many we have. It is a very creative track, and it will give India a chance to showcase its people and expose India to the rest of the world."
The Hermann Tilke-designed circuit is expected to form the centrepiece of a larger sports development, and Ecclestone said that he expected F1 to sit comfortably alongside other sports more familiar to the Indian population, such as hockey and cricket.
"I had heard about India, and I thought that it was somewhere we should be," he confirmed, "In fact, we should have been here before. I don't see why the airport should not be able to tackle the flow of equipment, cars, etc, and I don't see much problem in dealing with traffic, so the only thing left to sort out is hotels, but there are more and more coming up in surrounding areas, so that will be good."
Praising what he had seen of the Commonwealth Games - notably the opening ceremony, which he said bettered those of recent Olympic Games - Ecclestone admitted that the grand prix would naturally benefit from having an Indian driver in the field when F1 arrives in India next September.
"I think F1 is accepted in India and, if we had an Indian driver in an Indian team - or a good team - it would be superb," he noted, referring to erstwhile HRT pilot Karun Chandhok, who he has openly supported this season, "It is the same in every country - people turn up to cheer their own countrymen. We have already seen Karun in one of the F1 teams, and he needs to concentrate on F1. It is nice that Vijay [Mallya] is supporting F1 and an Indian team, but I want an Indian driver in Vijay's team or in a good team."
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