Who says, not in our lifetime?

Date:   Tuesday , November 01, 2011

By the time this magazine reaches you, India's F1 Grand Prix would have been over. It's indeed a moment of pride for all of us. It's a major step forward for Indian motor sport and for sport in general in our country. With young fans aplenty, a growing Formula One interest, courtesy of Karun Chandhok and Force India, a state-of-the-art track, there is no dearth of enthusiasm.

Built at a cost of about $400 million, the new Buddh International Circuit has certainly put to rest perceptions about the capabilities of Indian sport after the chaotic preparations for last year's corruption-hit Commonwealth Games. Critics question the staging of such an elite and costly event. Given the context of a booming economy, high inflation, grinding poverty and severe malnutrition, corruption at all levels, staggering bureaucracy and land battles, is F1 something we need to be proud of? Remember, such aspersions were raised even during Chandrayaan, India's first unmanned mission to moon.

So, what does bringing F1 race mean to India?

The Common Wealth Games, which was solely driven by the Government was filled with corruption scandals and also raised questions on India's ability to deliver. Unlike CWG, the Buddh International Circuit was built by private player-- the Jaypee Group owns it. Hence, the government has to create conducive environment and encourage private players to take more of such initiatives to improve the standard of sports across the board.

F1 is not like Asian Games, the cricket World Cup or a Commonwealth Games which comes to India once in a while. This is an event, which will take place every year and thus is a perfect platform for companies to build their brand on a long-term basis. F1 is not just about a three-day adrenalin burst among F1 lovers, but will boost the Indian economy by $100 million for just the three day event, plus lots more to come, and for all income streams and all demographics.

The previous F1 had 27 million India viewers glued to the televisions. The Indian version will have many more thereby fueling the motoring spirit across the nation. This is also an opportunity of showcasing India to 570 million viewers worldwide, to get India recognized as a player capable of hosting the most technologically-advanced sport in the world. Indeed it is a patriotic thing, for all of us to say, "Hey guys, we can also do it."

F1 is a spectacle that draws crowds from different parts of the world. If you look at Singapore or Monaco F1 series, tourism during the Grand Prix week is normally the highest for the whole year. It could soon happen here in India too in the years to come.

It is likely that F1 will open the door for more of the top championships to come to India including the MotoGP, Indycar, NASCAR and DTM.

We are all proud of the achievements of Narain Karthikeyan and Karun Chandhok. It took Narain and Karun years to achieve what they have done and they mostly enhanced their skills by racing in international series. If we were to go by their records, the road to F1 is a long one. Until we give our youngsters a good foundation, the road to the higher echelons of motorsport will always be tough. Now that we have our own track, there will be boost to domestic racing series. It will prepare our young drivers for the international championships.

While we all know what our country can deliver, given all the problems we have to battle, we tend to give up and believe it is worthless trying to make something happen. Like Narain Karthikeyan once remarked, "I never thought in my racing career that I would be racing in India and here we are just around the corner."

Next time when we wanted something done or wanted to see progress in certain segments before we remark "Not in our lifetime" let's believe we can step forward to be the change we want to see around us. Whether F1 or Chandrayaan, nothing holds us back as a country when it comes to sailing into uncharted waters.

Please do share your thoughts with us.

Pradeep Shankar
Editor in Chief