As recently as two weeks ago, Bernie Ecclestone had doubts that the inaugural Indian Grand Prix would take place. But Formula One’s commercial rights holder is now assured that the first Formula One race to be held on the subcontinent will be a success.
“I was pessimistic a fortnight ago. I was sent pictures of the track and I thought: ‘Christ, we’re not going to get it finished in time,’” he said. “But what they have done in the meantime — and I've been sent more recent pictures — is incredible. The people there are very anxious to be sure they’re doing a good job and they are very passionate about their sport.”
New venues have always created headaches but the race at the Buddh International Circuit brought about a severe migraine following the stories that preceded the Commonwealth Games in India's capital a year ago.
Cricket’s World Cup earlier this year — and India should know a thing or two about organising a cricket match — was also tarnished by chaotic preparations.
Now, though, Ecclestone is eagerly anticipating the last three races of the season. “I'm really looking forward to [next] Sunday’s race. And I think here, and in Abu Dhabi and Brazil, the racing will be even keener than it has been this season. The drivers have been concerned about finishing second or third or fourth, because of the state of the championship. They have been anxious not to fall off the road. But now they don’t care. Now these guys will be racing to win.”
HRT’s Indian driver Narain Karthikeyan was near the track when he said on Saturday: “There is still some work being done on the landscaping but everyone is working 24/7 to make sure everything will be fine on the day.”
Earlier this month the stadium perimeter resembled a dirt track, but Karthikeyan added: “Everyone is determined that the finishing touches will be completed and that everyone will enjoy the experience. I think the drivers will enjoy the circuit. It’s a fantastic facility, one of the best four or five in the world. There are lot of elevation changes. The up and down nature of the track reminds me a bit of Turkey, while some of the corners remind me of Australia. It's a technical circuit.”
Karthikeyan, who became the first Indian F1 driver with Jordan in 2005, is convinced the fans will take to their new sport. “Those who come will be fans for ever,” he said. “I'm expecting a good crowd and a terrific atmosphere with everyone anxious to see what it is all about.”