THERE'S THAT glibness and authority in his voice, typical of a man in control. While he speaks over the phone, handling several other tasks simultaneously with consummate ease, Hindustan Times catches up with Bernie Ecclestone, Formula One chief, and gets him talking on his vision for F1 in India and more.
Tell us about the Formula One track in Delhi. What is the deal like?
It will undoubtedly be great for India. I can't discuss the deal, because I don't discuss business with everyone (laughs). I signed the deal with this group simply because they were introduced to me properly (by the people concerned).
There were talks about having a street race in Delhi…
I know that, but I feel it would have been difficult to have a street race in a place like Delhi. In any case, I think a permanent racetrack is a better option.
There are many Asian countries which don't have a driver in F1 but still have a track. India had Narain there, and Karun is just on the threshold. In that light, isn't it a bit late to have a track in India?
Well…. I know that Indian drivers are doing really well. But I see no problem in having F1 here after many other nations in Asia got before it. I believe everyone has got to make a start somewhere, and I am glad that India is finally having an F1 track.
There have been some changes this season like the removal of traction control to give drivers more freedom. Will it undermine engineers' role?
No, I don't think so. The engineers will play a role as long (and as much) as they want to. These changes have been introduced to make the race more interesting. The engineers will continue to make changes here and there…. you can't keep them out!
Won't the dominance of cricket and price of F1 tickets make it tough for the sport to find its feet in India?
I think it will have a following. The promoters have told us that F1 has a potential in India, and we are taking their view on this. As for the popularity of cricket, all I would say is that cricket and F1 are two different things. Obviously cricket is huge (in India) and it'll take time to reduce the gap, but I think F1 has a future here.
There have been talks about scrapping some of the GPs in Europe. But you are expanding in Asia despite having circuits like Sepang that are making losses.
Well… leave alone Formula One, Asia is being looked upon for everything nowadays. It is growing like crazy. Everyone has set his sight on Asia. So it's no surprise that we are also looking towards it.
Where would be the next F1 venue apart from India?
Korea for sure should be the next and we're looking at a few other places too.