There seems to be renewed vigour behind getting the Indian Grand Prix back for 2015 with organizers determined to make sure the race finds a place on the calendar, after speculation in the run up to this weekend’s event suggested that it could well be the country’s last.
Organizers and the sport’s commercial supremo Bernie Ecclestone are currently in talks to reschedule the event for early 2015 instead of its traditional late October slot as a result of which the event has been left off the 2014 calendar, the reasoning being that it doesn’t make sense to host two races in the space of six months.
But, beyond the basic logistical reasons, the race has had to cope with broader issues around taxation policies and the high cost of hosting the event which have thrown the Grand Prix’s future in doubt.
“I think there’s a renewed energy now, for sure. Sameer (Gaur, race promoter and Jaypee Sports CEO) is now very keen on making sure that we go ahead for 2015. This morning he said, ‘Look, we will make it happen’,” Vicky Chandhok, President of the Federation of Motor Sports Clubs of India said.
“The entire Jaypee Group are the only people who have put their money where their mouth is and at no cost to the government they’ve delivered to this country a world class facility.”
“And now just we have to make sure that we can support them in making sure the events come at a sensible cost and they don’t go on spending more and more money in making things happen,” Chandhok, father of former Formula One driver Karun, said.
Promoters typically pay Ecclestone a hosting fee of between $20-50million a year for the privilege of hosting a Formula One race, with the amount escalating by 10 percent every year, and with the rupee in freefall and the fees having to be paid in dollars, the cost burden of hosting the event has increased.
“Such a massive facility has been made here, an investment of more than $400 million in the circuit apart from the licence fee. We have a contract so I see no reason why we won’t come back,” Gaur told Reuters.
“About the organisers’ finances, I would say we had to prove in 2011 our credibility of making the circuit and holding the race. We did that. So the credibility is already there and I am pretty sure that we shall be doing the races,” Gaur said.
Chandhok also held out the prospect of a renegotiation of terms with Ecclestone that would go some way toward compensating for the rupee’s fall.
“Since the rupee has devalued so much, perhaps the Jaypee Group and Formula One Management will be speaking to each other soon, trying to re-negotiate, to try and save some of the lock that happened because of the devaluation.”
Chandhok also said that he would make a representation to the government over the taxation issues as well as with a view to bringing it on board as a partner in hosting the event in future years, with Gaur especially keen on extending the event for another five years beyond the initial term.
“We need to make a representation soon and not just on the taxation issue. We need to make a representation on how to partner with us, here we have the infrastructure in place, how to partner with the government to make sure the event doesn’t go away.”
However, some in the paddock remained sceptical about the event’s future.
“We have been here three years now and we have not really established the sport that well,” Sauber team principal Monisha Kaltenborn told reporters in the paddock.
“I always say that in India it’s not difficult to get 100,000 people together…but I think it will be very difficult to come back here.”
Image courtesy Sahara Force India