The fact that Maharashtra lost out to Uttar Pradesh in the bid to host India’s first ever Formula One race is a big regret for state public works minister Chhagan Bhujbal.
“The Formal One chief had approached us for preparing a track around Mumbai some years ago,” Bhujbal told medipersons on Monday. ‘The CM’s office and I interacted with Formula One organisation. But frankly, we could not start the project.”
People in the know of the matter said that some 400 acres of land were required for making the track. The first proposal came in 2004, when Bhujbal was the deputy chief minister. The offer created a lot of excitement within the government, but the state could not arrange for the required land. Only this month was a consultant appointed for the project. On October 24, the Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation asked the Populous and Delhi Integrated Multi Modal Transit System to identify the potential location for a circuit and associated development in and around Mumbai.
Bhujbal refused to blame the delay on any agency or person, but gave due credit for India’s first Grand Prix in Noida to Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mayawati. “She [Mayawati] did it and she showed she had a vision,” he said.
Jaypee Sports International, which developed the Buddh International Circuit at the cost of Rs 1,800 crore, has signed a five-year race lease with the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) – the body that sanctions Formula One races. The lease can be extended by another five years. There are two other racetracks in India - Irungattukottai, Sriperumbudur near Chennai and Kari Memorial Speedway in Coimbatore. However, neither of the two have hosted a Formula One Grand Prix.