Organisers of the inaugural Indian Grand Prix have attempted to defuse suggestions that F1 could be heading for another new circuit headache like that suffered over last year's Korean event.
Despite FIA race director Charlie Whiting reporting only weeks ago that he was pleased with the progress being made at the Greater Noida site, rumours have started to claim that the purpose-built circuit will not be ready in time for the race's scheduled slot in October. Although a completion date had been set for June or July, visitors believe that work is behind schedule and could fail to meet the necessary deadlines for inclusion on the calendar. With Bahrain already a doubt, losing another race would reduce the F1 calendar to 18 races, but event official Walter Kafitz insists that there would be no problem being ready on time.
"There will be no South Korea-type situation with us," the former head of the Nurburgring told Speed Week
, no doubt mindful of the reputation India has earned after falling behind on construction projects for the recent Commonwealth Games.
Whiting visited the construction site earlier this year and reported that he was 'extremely pleased' with the progress that had been made. At that point, in mid-February, the granular hard core layer of the track surface was being completed, with run-off areas also nearing completion. Laying the tarmac was due to start on 15 March, while access roads to bring spectators from the nearby Yamuna Expressway were also well advanced.
Whiting and his team are expected to make several similar visits to the site over the next few months in order to monitor the progress and ensure the developments continue, with a final inspection slated for 30 June.
The project has, however, been beset with personnel problems. Mark Hughes, who had overseen the project on behalf of promoters Jaypee Group, quit his role to take up a new position in Abu Dhabi in late January, while Suresh Kalmadi – who had been in charge of original race promoter the Indian Olympic Association, and formerly chairman of the Commonwealth Games Organising Committee – departed under suspicion of corruption. Hughes was replaced by Azhar Ghazili, who previously worked as an organiser for the Malaysian GP at Sepang, but continues to advise the Jaypee Group.