An Indian perspective - Indian GP



a
With the first ever Indian GP inching closer to reality, the buzz is clearly building up and with the likes of Lewis Hamilton (McLaren) and Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull Racing) showing a glimpse of what to expect; the prospects of a new sporting domain for sports enthusiasts could be just round the corner.

The clichéd phrase, “Speed thrills” just fits perfectly for F1 and try asking about this to an average Delhi brat, he would snap back with a loud -- Hell Ya!!!.

But Formula One is not an ultra new concept in India; way back in 1997 the idea of hosting Indian Grand Prix was first suggested. Later on, in 2003 it was pursued rather seriously, but it just could not materialise.

However, after four years in 2007, Bernie Ecclestone announced a provisional agreement to host a race at the Buddh International Circuit in Greater Noida, 50 kms from New Delhi, from 2009. But delays meant that it was not until 2011 that the dream became reality.

Formula One, like any other sporting event, is trying to explore new possibilities and with the latest additions of Grand Prix in Korea (2010), Abu Dhabi (2009) and Singapore (2008), India had to be the next Asian destination.

Add to this Vijay Mallya’s Force India which is one of only two motor-racing teams from Asia (Based in England, the Force India Formula One Team Limited holds an Indian license) and two Indian drivers Narain Karthikeyan (Hispania) and Karan Chandok (Lotus), it is a timely Indian venture by Bernie Eccelstone.

The success of IPL (Indian Premier League) is evidence enough for the interest shown by corporates in the sporting arena and Formula One is no different. Coming of Formula One to India is also proof of the fact that India is making an impact globally and all the business conglomerates want a piece of it.

It would be a three-day extravaganza and an annual event to look forward to. But how many would actually look forward to this motor sport event? The government does not recognise Formula One racing as a sport in the first place and in a country where there is a culture of following team sports, would Formula One stand a chance?

If the Bangalore event where Lewis Hamilton enthralled many F1 fans and the Red Bull racing exhibit at the Rajghat are anything to go by, Formula One might have a chance. The Bangalore response was especially quite overwhelming.

Formula One could be regarded as a sport of the new age, the technology. F1 is governed by mechanics and robotics and this could be the USP for Formula One to succeed here.

Formula One in a very strange manner like cricket is a television friendly sport. Respected cricket analyst Harsha Bhogle had once pointed out:

“Television is the seed that breeds sponsorships, ignites passions and carries sport across boundaries. Formula One has shown that. A seemingly monotonous sport with invisible drivers thrives solely due to the brilliant television”.

And this is what dictates the success of Formula One; marketing and sponsorships. This is a sport where the branding is of utmost importance. Ferrari became a household name because of Schumacher. Red Bull now is doing the same with Vettel. Lotus was once a brand synonymous to F1 thanks to Senna.

But the fact remains, Formula One is more of a business venture with profit and loss values than a sporting endeavour aimed at entertainment, just like IPL and Champions League.

But again there is an obvious sporting value to it which might be secondary but very important as well. Indian GP would open up the opportunities for many more Chandoks and Karthikeyans to experience this new sport. Karting and all other motor sports would get a boost in India.

Formula One would not be embraced by the millions of Indians, that is a fact but it would thrive on its niche audience. More importantly it would brand India the nation as a global market for corporate sports.