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All it takes is a little push...

Growing the audience for F1 in India is all about giving fans that initial kick of adrenalin, writes Joe Saward.

india Updated: Oct 29, 2012 11:16 IST
Joe Saward

India is new to Formula 1. Those who know a little bit about racing might say that the Indian Grand Prix on Sunday was not the most exciting race they have seen. This was true.

Grands Prix sometimes explode into awe-inspiring action, and sometimes they do not. One needs to remember that those who are closest to the sport sometimes need to take a step back and look at F1 with a new set of eyes.

They may have seen hundreds of races, but that is not necessarily a good thing because they forget the amazing spectacle that the sport provides, because they are too busy analysing what they are seeing rather than letting their emotions run riot. And F1 is all about passion.

If you meet someone who has been to an F1 race for the first time, they will talk in awe of the speed of the cars, the incredible noise and bright colours.

They will talk of the violence of the cars, the amazing acceleration and braking, the split-second overtaking moves that TV makes look easy.

Very few of them ever go home unhappy. Not only can they boast to their friends that they were there and saw THE big event, but they will also talk about these incredible machines.

It is not a new concept. In ancient Rome, the satirist Juvenal wrote that the only two things that the population cared about were panem et circenses (bread and circuses).

As long as they had these two things, they did not rise against the ruling classes. Modern Grand Prix racing is not unlike chariot racing in the Circus Maximus. It is a huge thrill. And if you don't believe it, you just have to go and find out.

One of the most amazing things one can do at a Grand Prix is to watch the main grandstand at the start of the race, rather than focusing on the cars.

It really is extraordinary to watch people who are not used to F1, freaking out in excitement at what they are seeing as the modern day gladiators launch themselves into battle.

Acquired taste

Growing the audience for F1 in India is all about giving fans that initial kick of adrenalin. Later on, when they get into the sport, they can learn the finer points, political wrangling, stories of the stars and the rest of it.

Let us not kid ourselves, any sport needs time to develop a big audience. It has taken 300 years for cricket to gain the popularity it now has. It is a more simple game and one that almost everyone can play.

Motor racing is different. It needs money to buy machines, but this does not mean that India cannot find drivers, who can win F1 races. It is a matter of finding the talent and then nurturing it in the right way.

F1 talent spotters will tell you there are certain things that a successful racing driver is born with: hand-to-eye coordination, an acute sense of balance, a certain amount of natural aggression.

These things are in their DNA. If these people can be identified, the path to success is only about nurturing and giving them experience.

In basic terms, it is primarily a numbers game and so a country with a population of 1.2 billion has much more chance of producing an F1 champion than a country like Austria, with a population of 8.5 million. On a very basic level, there are 140 people in India with the same basic skills that Sebastian Vettel possesses.

The key is to find them and understand how these talents must be nurtured.

The writer has covered every GP in the last 25 years