The Indian Grand Prix – drama on and off the track

Having won the last 5 races in the 2013 season and the only two previous Ind

Having won the last 5 races in the 2013 season and the only two previous Indian Grand Prix, where he led for every racing lap, it would take a special type of person to bet against Sebastian Vettel winning is fourth consecutive world title this weekend when the F1 circus returns to New Delhi for the third time. The Red Bull driver leads his closest (which is perhaps the wrong term) rival Fernando Alonso of Ferrari by 90 points with only 100 still available. That means that the German will secure another title if he finishes fifth or higher in Sunday’s race, regardless of where Alonso finishes. 

This doesn’t mean the race cannot be enjoyed however, many of the drivers relish the opportunity to compete at the Buddh International Circuit with some of the unique challenges it provides.


Unique Track Challenges

Yet another from the brain of Hermann Tilke, the circuit features two long straights and a wide variety of corner types, including one uphill which heads straight into Turn 11, forming one of the most exciting parts of the track, all overlooked by a 13,000 capacity grandstand.  The 1.2km back straight, where 200mph can be reached, provides the best chance for overtaking, although clever driving means opportunities can be found elsewhere. 

Located in Greater Noida, Buddh is around 40km away from the Indian capital city, New Delhi, situated in the Jaypee Sports City complex, also home to one of the largest golf courses in Asia. There is also a state-of-the-art 40,000 capacity cricket stadium scheduled for completion next year, with capacity eventually increasing to 100,000. 

Famous faces from Bollywood and Indian sport add the glitz and the glamour to the weekend, while intrigued locals and die-hard fans have ensured attendances have been good for the last two years. 

The Indian Grand Prix is a rare example of a new Formula 1 race not backed by government money, or indeed any government support at all for that matter. It owes its existence to the vision of a construction group who wanted a Grand Prix circuit as part of a new ‘sports city’, which when phrased like that, sounds like an awesome idea. The result has been a challenging track in a welcoming atmosphere and, for India, proof that it can smoothly run a huge international sporting event. This Grand Prix is an important landmark for an increasingly powerful and influential nation. 


The road ahead hasn’t always been so clear

It hasn’t all been plain sailing however. The race is only three years old and with two years left to run on its contract, already has an uncertain future. It has been dropped from the already loaded 2014 calendar and although the claim is that Bernie Ecclestone is keen for the race to return in early 2015, organisers continue to insist they would prefer October as a date. Furthermore, this year’s ticket sales have been slow. Around 65,000 tickets were put on sale in August, with less than a third sold by early October. But, with the prospect of seeing Vettel crowned champion, along with the race’s uncertain future after its 2014 exclusion, there could well be a late surge in sales. 


All the worse for organisers

India’s Supreme Court will hear a petition on Friday which seeks the cancellation of this weekend’s Grand Prix. The petition was filed on the grounds that the organisers of the Grand Prix have allegedly not paid taxes for a previous event. This is where the lack of any government support for the Grand Prix becomes a major factor.  The Supreme Court has executive powers in India

The organisers have fallen into these traps before, when they were ordered to freeze a quarter of ticket revenues two years ago as an outstanding tax dispute has not been settled. A spokesman for the circuit’s owner, Jaypee Sports International Limited, said: “Whatever the court says, we are ready to follow.” 

Most in F1 don’t expect to be returning to India after this year, which seems a shame, given what the race could mean to both the sport and its hosts this weekend. However, even though the entire F1 community is already set up and raring to go for this year’s edition, this could end up being a wasted journey for the teams and personnel in terms of both resources and finance.

None of this will bother Sebastian Vettel however, due to the loss of points for all the drivers, even if Sunday’s Grand Prix is cancelled, he’ll still be crowned World Champion for the fourth consecutive time.


Image by: Nic Redhead

Is Vettel the clear winner? Have your say below.