Misplaced blame?

05/08/2013
NEWS STORY

An article in the Indian version of the Daily Mail Online (us neither) lays the blame for the country's "dumping" from the 2014 calendar squarely at the door of Bernie Ecclestone, calling the decision "unfair".

"The man who juggles all the economics is none other than Bernie Ecclestone," reads the article in question. "As one who controls everything, Bernie is a powerful man. He decides on a lot of things, including who hosts a race and which doesn't, as India found out last week.

"For a race which has been recognised by the world motorsports body FIA as the best run event on the F1 calendar for both years that it has been in existence, it came as a huge shock when Bernie decided to dump the Indian GP from the 2014 calendar," it continues. "The reason, Bernie said, was 'political' and whatever that means, we know for sure it has nothing to do with only red tape.

"There was huge excitement when F1 came to the BIC in October 2011," claim authors S Kannan and Shreyas Sharma. "A race of this magnitude had never been seen on Indian soil before and two local drivers - Narain Kartikeyan (sic) and Karun Chandhok - in F1 was hard to believe, though the latter did not get to race in Greater Noida.

"In 2013, not only is there no Indian driver on the grid, there is an air of pessimism. For their part, the promoters of the Indian GP, Jaypee Sports, have left no stone unturned to make it a big event."

While there might have been "huge excitement" when F1 headed to the Buddh International Circuit in 2011 this had clearly calmed a year earlier, the inaugural event's attendance of 90,000 dropping to just 65,000 twelve month later.

As for there not being a single Indian of the grid in 2013, only five countries hosting rounds of the 2013 championship are represented on the grid; Australia, Spain, Great Britain, German and Brazil. There is an Indian team, Sahara Force India, even if has Irish, British, Dutch and Russian DNA.

In Field of Dreams it was claimed that 'if you build it they will come', well Jaypee Sports did build it but they (the fans) didn't come. Then again, the same can be said of a number of other recent additions to the calendar, including Korea, and looking further back China.

Even as Kannan and Sharma bemoan India's exclusion from the calendar, other countries are queuing up to get on board, nobody is twisting their arms.

Some countries have signed up to F1 in the belief that it will boost their image, others in the belief that it will attract tourists and their money. When they sign up they know exactly what to expect, the sort of money that will be needed to build a state-of-the-art circuit and the funding to pay the hosting fee and the annual increment.

With Dubai due to host a pre-season test in 2014 its worth pointing out that Pitpass editor Chris Balfe once asked A1GP founder Sheikh Maktoum Hasher Maktoum Al Maktoum if he wanted to see his country on the F1 calendar. "Why would we," he replied, "we don't need the publicity".

The organisers in India, like their counterparts in Korea, Singapore, Abu Dhabi and all the rest, will have done the math, they will have prepared some sort of business plan no matter how basic. If, after just two years, the organisers of the Indian Grand Prix feel the need to reduce ticket prices to 25.00 - the cheapest Grand Prix tickets on the calendar - that is down to them not Bernie Ecclestone.

If the event has lost 25,000 attendees in just one year, they need to find out why. If it is down to the fact that there isn't an Indian driver on the grid perhaps it is time for local corporations in this ever-rising economy to start putting their money where Kannan and Sharma's mouths are.

There are some who claim that Pitpass has strong links to Bernie Ecclestone, some who even believe that we are in his pocket. Not so, absolutely not so, and if anyone really believes such tripe we are happy to take them on legally. Whilst our business Editor Chris Sylt does know Mr Ecclestone on a purely professional basis, rest assured that Pitpass fiercely defends its total independence.

In the case of the Indian Grand Prix however, and the claim that Ecclestone is responsible, we would advise that the blame does not lie with him and that instead, as with the two other probable 'no shows' on the 2014 calendar, New Jersey and Sochi, the blame actually lies closer to home, namely local politics.

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Published: 05/08/2013
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