Fans sure of Indian GP coming back in 2015

New Delhi: The diehard enthusiast of Formula 1 racing refuses to believe that the 2013 edition is going to be the last Indian Grand Prix at the Buddh International Circuit (BIC) and its chances of returning in 2015 are bleak.

There are others who think F1 is a sport for the rich and by the rich and the dip in its popularity here is a clear indication that it`s not a spectator sport, at best it`s TV entertainment.

The protagonists of the Indian Grand Prix do not share the pessimism of even the paddock people and pooh-pooh the problems, real and imaginary, advanced by a couple of drivers and a number of constructors.

"The very fact that the first two F1 outings were highly successful, there is no need for any pessimism or panic, the dropping of the 2014 edition notwithstanding," says Rupesh Kumar Raikwar, who claims to be no mean amateur driver himself.

Those who have been to the BIC in the last two years feel the organisers have a year and a half to sort out the issues and put up an even bigger show. The issues raised are not insurmountable. All that the organisers need is a little encouraging push by way of simplifying tax and customs regulations.

Buttressing the argument, motor sports loyalist Pulkit Sood finds nothing wrong with the way the races were held in the last two years.

"The first Indian GP had a novelty factor and people, who wanted to know what exactly F1 is all about, flocked to the BIC and enjoyed the glamour quotient. At the end of the day, it`s the genuine enthusiast who will continue to patronise the event and there are plenty of them," said Sood, a 26-year-old who is mad about motorsport.

"The exposure that motorsports has received after F1 is tremendous and positive results will be seen in the next few years," he added.

It is clear F1 is a young man`s sport, not for the faint-hearted like Rakesh Mohan.

“This sport is for the rich and by the rich. We can watch it on TV but can never get involved unlike cricket or hockey and that is the biggest problem,” said 58-year-old Rakesh Mohan, a science teacher at a Delhi school.

“The dip in F1’s popularity is a proof that people have had enough of it… it’s time to stop hosting the event and wasting so much money. Apart from entertainment it’s not contributing much to sports in the country,” he added.

The organisers are not willing to join the issue barely 24 hours before the race. They are more factual. The ticket sales are close to 45,000 and by the time the race is flagged off Sunday the stands should have in the vicinity of 65,000 cheering fans like last year.

The inaugural edition in 2011 saw a massive 95,000 turnout.

According to 34-year-old Miraj Ahmed, a Bangalore resident, who has been following the sport for close to 15 years, motorsports in India has a bright future whereas 48-year-old Sandeep Sharma, also a keen follower of sport, doesn`t think the sport would go too far in India unless it is projected as a common man`s entertainment.

"The buzz created by F1 in India has forced people to sit up and take notice. It may be an expensive sport but I believe more youngsters will take to it," said Ahmed who saw the first race in Delhi in 2011.

"We already have an F1 team and soon will have an Indian driver standing at the podium," added Ahmed.

"It`s entertaining to watch on TV but I would never shell out thousands of rupees to watch it live. It is indeed a sport for the rich and till the time it reaches out to the masses, which is highly unlikely, it can never be popular here," said Sharma.

Some supporters also want to see the government take a more lenient stand by relaxing some of its stringent laws by recognising F1 as a sport.

For them Indian GP can`t go on carrying tax, customs, logistical and bureaucratic niggles and political indifference.

"The bureaucratic and logistical hassles have put a question mark on the return of F1 to India. Unless the politicians and bureaucrats relent, it is difficult to see the race continuing," said Prabhjeet Sondhi, a 30-year-old engineer from Chandigarh who would be at the BCI Sunday.