Tired of Delhi’s traffic, parking problems and utter disregard for motor laws? All that and more will be sublimated by the arrival of a Formula 1 championship in the city, which has the highest number of automobiles in the country, if Suresh Kalmadi has his way. The Indian Olympic Association president has reached an agreement with F1 übermeister Bernie Ecclestone about staging an annual Delhi Grand Prix from 2009. It seems that the land of the Maruti is on track to get the likes of Fernando Alonso, Felipe Massa and Giancarlo Fisichella and their McLarens, Ferraris and Renaults zipping through the neighbourhood. Formula 1 racing is big business and much money needs to be put in to set up shop in India. While unsporty types like Union Sports Minister Mani Shankar Aiyar may frown on Mr Kalmadi’s plans, the Delhi Grand Prix should be seen as a big money-spinner. With television viewership in Formula 1 racing spiralling across the world — including in India — there will be several deals within wheels.
But before breaking into a jig holding a checked flag, some of us cynics would like to be reassured by Mr Kalmadi and his F1 faithful that the confusion surrounding the Delhi 2010 Commonwealth Games is not replicated in the Grand Prix project. For starters, Delhi does not have a racing track and the bulk of racing activities — including enthusiasm — happens to be in Karthikeyan country in the South. There is also the matter of larger infrastructure demands starting from hotel availability (um, 40,000 five-star rooms in two years?) to airport facilities (including parking space for private jets). A tall order, but then Mr Kalmadi, we are sure, has it all figured out and will very soon share it with others.
But the thrill of Delhi joining the ranks of Monte Carlo, Indianapolis, Silverstone, Sao Paulo and other cities is enough to get more of us trying to find out what the huge deal of following the exploits of a pack of really fast cars going around the bends on telly is all about. If Sakhir in Bahrain and Shanghai in China can have their F1 races, there is no reason why a ‘non-traditional racing’ city like Delhi can’t burn a bit of rubber on the track. As for where in Delhi we should be lining up come 2009 to see those lean, mean, driving machines zip through, Mr Kalmadi will let us know shortly. Making Delhi an F1 arena sounds great. But then, so does making Chennai the next Wimbledon venue. Clearly, Mr Kalmadi should be applauded for resisting our cynical insinuations.