Finally, after two decades of trial and tribulations, India is set for a date with Formula 1 on October 30, next year. The minor obstacle to surmount is, of course, that the track being developed by the Jaypee Group, just off the Yamuna Expressway in Greater Noida, is yet to be approved by the international motorsports controlling body (FIA).
The 5.14 km clockwise track, coming up as part of an approximate 360-acre complex is slated to cost around R 1600 crore. Designed by German architect Herman Tilke, who has designed all tracks that have come up since Sepang in 1999, features 16 corners with two straights.
On the back straight, which will have major elevation changes — ranging from 2-14 metres, cars are expected to touch 318kmh going into turn four, after which the track drops sharply from a height of 14 metres generating almost 2.5 G-force to load the brakes.
Among the other highlights is the complex between turns eight and 13. This part of the track bears uncanny similarity with the Schumacher S on the Hockenheim track. Most of Tilke's tracks have come in for criticism for not being conducive for overtaking.
This fact has played on the minds of the promoters. After the first draft of the design was presented, Mark Hughes, Vice-President Operations, got it tested in the F1 team McLaren's simulator. Based on the data, design changes were made, most notably the section between turns five-eight, to make the track more competitive.
The promoters have also taken into account the fact that races in China, Bahrain and Istanbul have failed to generate enough spectator interest among locals. With this in mind, the top management of Jaypee Sports International (JPSI) have opted for variable seating capacity.
The main grandstand on the start-finish straight will have seating capacity of 30,000, while temporary grandstands will accommodate another 60,000. The general seating will also be variable to a max capacity of 30,000 and the paddock-club can accommodate up to 5000. Market research is also in the pipeline to determine the appropriate prices of tickets.
As a long-term plan, the track is just one aspect of a proposed Sports City spread over 2500 acres. This will also have an ICC standard cricket stadium and residential complexes. There is also talk of setting up a racing academy and rally school for talent development.
Formula 1 won't be the only event that JPSI is targeting. They are in talk with Dorna to get Moto GP and also the Super Bike series. The run-off areas and gravel traps will be made in order to meet the necessary safety requirements. To make the track and cut the drainage channels, 400,000 tons of earth has been moved.
The promoters expect to complete most of the civil work by February 2011, so that an early inspection by the FIA can be carried out.