On the eve of this year's event at Buddh International Circuit, Vicky Chandhok has said that the Indian Grand Prix must return to the F1 calendar in 2015 or risk being lost forever.

The race, which has appeared on the grand prix calendar twice since its much-hyped introduction in 2011, is due to take a sabbatical next year, the combined result of rising costs in a tightening economic situation and FOM's desire to move the race to an early season slot, and Chandhok is concerned that it may never make it back onto the schedule.

"If it doesn't come back in 2015, it may never come back at all - that is my concern," he was quoted by Britain's Guardian newspaper, before clarifying the reasons for next year's absence, "First, Bernie wanted to switch the race to March, but there was no way we could stage two races in five months. Second, everything has become a lot more expensive....

"Once you lose a race, it can be gone for ever. That is why I am calling on everyone in India to make this Sunday's race an event to remember, so that everyone in F1 will realise that it needs the Indian Grand Prix."

With more and more potential venues to choose from, F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone would not find it hard to replace India, but Chandhok insists that it would be a travesty after the hard work - and hardships including the usual delays and political wrangling - that the challenging 16-turn Buddh International venue went through before finally making it to the calendar.

"If we lose it, I would be very disappointed, because it took us ten years to get the race in the first place," he continued, "It was in 1999 that Bernie Ecclestone first had talks with organisers and sponsors in India. [Now] everything is progressing like a well-oiled machine.

"India is now recognised worldwide as making great technological advances, so F1 makes sense. The race has [also] been good for the economy for the past two years. Hotels and taxi drivers have been busy and so have other workers. The taxpayers have not been paying for it. It has been a private promoter. It is more than just a sporting occasion. It is an event capable of encouraging people all over the world. It is good for India and good for its government."

Chandhok's son, Karun, wasn't on the grid for the inaugural event two seasons ago, and agrees that it would be sad to see the race follow him into F1 exile so soon after establishing itself.

"The first time I went to the site was in April 2010 and it was a massive dirt field," he recalled to the official F1 website, "You could see they'd moved the earth around and there were a few elevation contours, but there was nothing that resembled a race track.

"I think, between that date and the race in October 2011, I probably visited the site 20 times. When they first put the asphalt down the organisers called me to come and drive and to point out any bumps in the track that needed ironing out, and when they were installing the kerbs they wanted to know what I thought. Then the layout of Turn 5 was changed slightly and they called me again to come down and have a drive around to see what I though before they had it signed off. So I was involved all the way through.

"In the run up to the event, I think we worked it out that I did 50 interviews in three days - and we're not talking group interviews either, we're talking one-on-ones...

"To go out there and drive an F1 car on the circuit in anger in FP1 and see the event unfold, there was a huge sense of pride. There was a huge attendance - from celebrities, cricket players, business tycoons - and we had endorsement from the whole of India as 110,000 people showed up for the race."

With Narain Karthikeyan currently racing in the AutoGP Series, there will be no Indian representation on the grid this weekend, adding another note to Chandhok Sr's call to action as he attempts to attract a similar size crowd at a time when track officials are reporting a downturn in sales.

According to ibnlive, Buddh International is claiming that just 27,000 tickets have been sold for the 2013 race, although officials expect numbers to eventually match the 65,000 sold of last year.

"This time around, the buzz is low, but we have been trying to woo in corporates to market the sport," said promoter Jaypee Sports International's Sameer Gaur revealed.

Ironically, Jaypee has been named by the FIA as the best F1 promoter for each of the last two years.



Loading Comments...