Ecclestone concedes cricket threat to F1 in India

New delhi: Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone conceded Thursday that the sport will never be as popular as cricket in India, as the country prepares to host its first grand prix.

A new circuit in Delhi will host the 17th race of the F1 season on Oct. 30, and Ecclestone believes promoting it will be a daunting challenge.

"F1 is new in India and it will take a lot of effort to generate interest," Ecclestone said at an event to announce telecom company Bharti Airtel as the title sponsor. "We will never catch up with cricket but we can perhaps get close."

Ecclestone was confident that the Budh International Circuit, which is being built about 40 kilometers (25 miles) from New Delhi in the satellite town of Greater Noida, would be completed in time.

"It will be one of the nicest circuits and be ready in time. People are checking everything on a daily basis and it will be in good shape," he said.

The 5.14-kilometer (3.19-mile) track is part of a sports complex being developed by the Jaypee Group, which has got 10-year rights for the Indian F1 race.

The venue has been designed by German architect Hermann Tilke, who has designed many of the new circuits that have been added to the sport`s calendar in recent years.

Interest in racing has increased in this country of 1.2 billion after the emergence of Indian F1 drivers Narain Karthikeyan and Karun Chandhok.

Karthikeyan started with Jordan in 2005 and drove for Hispania in the early part of this season. Chandhok made his debut with Hispania last year and has since switched to Lotus.

Indian interest is also expected to be whipped up thanks to the presence of Force India, an F1 team run by liquor baron Vijay Mallya for four years.

Bureau Report

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