Bernie Ecclestone, the 82-year-old business tycoon, is a powerful man whose writ runs supreme when it comes to deciding the Formula One calendar. Unfortunately, this time his pronouncement has put paid to the 2014 edition of the hugely-popular Indian Grand Prix in 2014.
But why has India been denied the opportunity to host the GP next year is a question that every F1 fan is asking.
It was an event that propelled lndia into the big league and earned it praise for a successful conduct of the event. Indian GP, has been hailed by the world motorsports body FIA as the best-run/managed event on the F1 calendar for the years 2011 and 2012.
So what went wrong that resulted in India’s sudden fall from the all-powerful Formula One’s chief executive’s grace?
The reasons Bernie Ecclestone said were “political” amid claims that government bureaucracy and tax regime threaten to strangle the newest race to join the sport’s roster.
Ecclestone’s reasons “political”, has came as a huge shock to the organisers. He may have been referring to the taxation laws that have troubled the series since it landed in India for the inaugural edition in 2011; the various bureaucratic channels that had to be navigated before customs cleared the F1 cargo.
Add to this, teams and organisers were reportedly asked to shell out an exorbitant sum as “luxury tax” because the Union sports ministry still does not recognise Formula One as a sport.
However, Sameer Gaur of Jaypee Sports is confident that F1 race will be back in India in 2015. “All it needs is some government support”.
“We have a very sound contract with the F1 management.
Bernie is a wise man, and he believes in India as a destination. The 2014 Indian Grand Prix is not happening because of logistical problems, but those problems will be sorted out before the 2015 race,” Gaur assured.
On the government’s role, Gaur added: “If we want F1 in India on a long-term basis then the government should share the licence fee. That’s the only way F1 can survive. Jaypee has made the circuit and paid the licence fee. But how long can we sustain it on our own. There are many governments around the world that share the F1 licence fee.”
Gaur said that India will continue to have the GP till the end of the five-year contract. But beyond that, it would be difficult to sustain the event without government support.
Jaypee spent some $300million (over Rs 2,000 crore) to build the circuit, they also had to make a deal with Ecclestone worth $40million per year (over 300 crore) for a five-year contract.