One lakh-capacity circuit almost full

Roudra Bhattacharya Heena Khan Greater Noida | Updated on March 12, 2018

formula-one   -  Business Line

After the controversy-packed Commonwealth Games of October last year, India on Sunday allayed all fears and proved that it could hold a successful global sporting event with the first Grand Prix.

The $400-million Buddh International Circuit in Greater Noida filled up to almost full capacity as fans and celebrities poured in from across the country and overseas to cheer for their favourite teams and drivers. The rush was such that the approach road to the venue from Delhi/Noida, a recently built six-lane expressway, was jam packed for most of the day — a scenario one usually associates with cricket.

“It's not about having a mass appeal (as cricket). This is the first season for F1 in India and has had a huge impact on the masses. In the coming years, the euphoria can build, but we need more than one race a year for people to start talking about it,” cricketer Yuvraj Singh said.

While Saturday's qualifying round saw 50 per cent of the seats getting filled, Sunday's main race saw 95 per cent of the one-lakh capacity circuit full, generating around Rs 85-crore revenue for organisers JPSI over the weekend. The company has a five-year franchise for the India GP, after which it can choose to renew for a further five years if the F1 management agrees.

“It is a very emphatic statement of a confident and technologically competent India — that it can hold any such global event. Especially after the CWG experience when people raised doubts, they are now glad that our honour has been kept,” said Mr Askari H. Zaidi, Vice- President at JPSI.

He added, “Tickets sales were much higher than most IPL matches and the turnout was even higher than other countries that hold an F1 race — Korea, Abu Dhabi and even its home ground Silverstone. A capacity of one lakh is not there at most places.”

Interestingly, with the sport very new to India, only a section of the crowd represented actual fans of F1. Many had come just to feel the excitement of what is probably the most glamorous and expensive sport in the world.

“We were under the impression that Narain Karthikeyan represents India in our national team, Force India,” said a lady at one of the prime Grandstand seats.

“I'm not a huge fan, but I've been to the US GP before. I hope it is now a regular feature, but they really need to sort out the parking issues. I think people have the money and are willing to pay for premium entertainment,” said Mr Nikhil Kapoor, a Delhi-based carpet exporter, who was accompanied by his relatives from Rajasthan, Punjab and Chennai.

The promise that India will now feature regularly in the F1 calendar is also underlined by the race winner Vettel's fascination with Indian women. “ Aapke auratein bahut sundar hain, unki aankhen bahut sundar hai (your women are very beautiful, their eyes are very beautiful),” he innocently remarked on the podium after winning the race.

Published on October 30, 2011

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