India pleased, but insists ticket uptake expected
24 August 2011
Organisers of the inaugural Indian Grand Prix have admitted that they are pleased, but not surprised, by the initial interest in tickets for the race, which joins the F1 calendar at the end of October.
Despite persistent rumours that the new Buddh International circuit would not be ready in time for its bow, and added uncertainty when the race date was moved to the end of the schedule to make way for Bahrain's possible return, organisers have been able to report a healthy uptake of tickets, with a greater push to widen the availability still to come.
"We knew the response would be good and we are very pleased," Ashish Hemrajani, the head of the race's ticket agency, told Reuters, "Outside cricket and cinema, you don't get such response but, honestly, we expected such a response. After all, it's the first ever F1 race in India and there was anticipation over when tickets would finally go on sale.
"I think most of the tickets sold so far must have gone to people living in and around Delhi, but we will be launching packages soon for the foreigners for their travel and stay, so we will see some traction coming soon."
Tickets first went on sale on Saturday morning, with over £150,000 being taken in the first three hours of trading, but the first two passes were handed over to India's two F1 representatives, Karun Chandhok and Narain Karthikeyan, both of whom have done much to put the country on the grand prix map.
Although neither is currently in a regular race cockpit - Karthikeyan after being replaced by Daniel Ricciardo at HRT and Chandhok holding down a reserve role at Team Lotus - both are hopeful of being on the grid for their home event later this year.
"The first time I went there was in April last year and all I saw was a lot of mud and a few ponds," Chandhok said of the 5.14km Buddh International facility, "Now, I think we got two to three special corners, with double the width to promote overtaking. This is the first circuit in the world with overtaking zones recommended by some drivers and [FIA race director] Charlie Whiting, and the undulation they have created is also very, very impressive - it adds to the character of the circuit."
Chandhok, whose father heads up India's main motorsport body, was also confident that the circuit can attract a large live audience to its inaugural grand prix.
"I was told 27m viewers watch F1 on ESPN-STAR Sports," he noted, "If you get 0.5 per cent of that [figure coming to the circuit], that's over 120,000 people!"