India's first foray into the high-tech, high-cost world of F1 is poised to come another step closer today [Tuesday] when the wraps officially come off the new Buddh International Circuit.
The first Indian Grand Prix
is scheduled to take place next weekend, and organisers hope that the unveiling will finally lay to rest the sort of speculation about the circuit's readiness that plagued last year's Koran GP debut. Doubts have been raised over whether the 16-turn, 5.14km Hermann Tilke-designed venue would be ready to welcome an F1 fraternity already jaded from back to back races in Japan and Korea, but recent images suggest that the circuit and infrastructure is waiting for its appearance on the world stage.
Concerns are not unexpected, given India's recent record with the Commonwealth Games, which was plagued by reports of unfinished accommodation, dirty conditions in areas that had been completed and general shoddy timekeeping and workmanship. Only emergency government intervention saved a project allegedly rife with corruption, but the F1 circuit - and the sports village that is planned to surround it - has largely avoided such problems as the result of being a privately-funded programme.
Both Bernie Ecclestone and members of the FIA have praised what they have seen of the Buddh International Circuit, and commented on the way in which Jaypee Sports International, the company set up to build the track and manage the race, had controlled the development, starting from the moment that 80-year old company founder Jaiprakash Gaur signed a $200m contract during his first formal meeting with Ecclestone.
According to the Indian media, the Jaypee Group will host members of the F1 fraternity at a 60-acre golf and spa resort, before the completion of the remaining attractions at the Greater Noida site, which will include sports facilities such as a cricket stadium, hockey stadium, tennis courts, squash courts and shooting range, and public amenities including apartments, offices and shopping malls.
At this stage, however, the investment represents little more than a $400m gamble, with only a fraction of that amount set to return in the shape of ticket sales. Undaunted, Jaypee is confident that the venue can be made to work - and profitably - having modelled itself on the success of Sepang in Malaysia.
"We've taken a long-term view on this," MD and CEO Sameer Gaur explained, "People will want this address. We're in talks with MotoGP, as well as other car and bike racing competitions for use during other parts of the year.
Gaur also revealed that his company expects to secure a deal for Mercedes-Benz to open a motor racing academy at the circuit, while racing enthusiasts will be able to drive the circuit on trackdays.
Early predictions suggest that 60 per cent of tickets have been sold in advance of the F1 race weekend, despite prices not exactly being cheap for all, and India appears to have grasped 'F1 fever', after 2000 eager onlookers turned out to see Daniel Ricciardo test a Red Bull
showcar on one of Delhi's main thoroughfares.