Formula One teams have packed their bags from the Buddh International Circuit and are on their way to the beautiful Yas Marina Circuit for the only twilight race of the season, the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. However, they have left behind a very debatable topic on the desk: was the Indian Grand Prix 2012 a success or otherwise?
The empty stands on the smoky afternoon of Indian Grand Prix race day were easily visible on the TV screens; you don’t need to have an HD TV set to see that. According to reports, last year about 95,000 people attended the Indian Grand Prix weekend, whereas this year the number dropped to a disappointing 65,000!
The organizers slashed the ticket prices considerably and the main race day grand stand tickets were available for Rs. 12,000. The cheapest ticket was available for Rs. 2,000 which earlier cost Rs. 3,000. One of the officials at the Indian Grand Prix said that he and his fellow marshals were given complimentary passes in order to increase the attendance at the Grand Prix. He added that nothing like that happened last year when the turnout was good.
Reason for lesser ticket sales
What could be the reason for lack of ticket sales – high ticket prices, lack of marketing or just the fact that Indians are not interested in Formula One? According to me, the people have failed to understand this sport and are not willing to do so either. Building a beautiful facility, constantly improving the circuit and inviting celebrities will not do it alone for the organizers; it is important that people should be informed about what Formula One is, otherwise next year the situation can get worse.
Last year, the hype of Formula One coming to India was alive and people who had just seen Formula One on their TV sets were turning to the circuit to see what it was all about in real life. Everyone was excited and so were the organizers, who were in high spirits about successfully staging the Grand Prix. But now have plenty to think about for the next year’s race.
The other problem due to which people didn’t turn to Formula One is that they had no one to cheer for in the Grand Prix. Formula One seems to be disconnected with Indians sentimental values; there is a team Sahara Force India with no Indian except the owners and then there is a driver Narain Karthikeyan, who is racing for a Spanish team and running at the back of the grid. Formula One is considered as a sport for corporate pride, not national pride, so this could well be one of the reasons.
Make or break year…
About the recent dip in spectators turning to the Indian Grand Prix, Formula One Boss Bernie Ecclestone said that the third year will be important for the organizers as in the second year numbers tend to fall after the excitement of the first year. He added that if the numbers decline in 2013, then there will be something to worry about for the organizers.
Bernie Ecclestone said, “The first time the excitement is always high, the second time it goes down. The third year is what is important as there is something to worry if the interest keeps on falling. And we have stiff competition from cricket.”
The economic impact
With the tickets prices being slashed and spectator turnout declining, the economic impact of it should also be a talking point. Promoters of the Indian Grand Prix are paying a very high fee to Bernie Ecclestone, and the recent reports in the Indian media suggest that the balance sheet is going to be a big problem for JPSI (Jaypee Sports International). The final report about the revenue is yet to come, but the situation is not looking good.
As a true motorsports fan, I would like to see people turning up for the Indian Grand Prix and packing almost every part of the circuit, but it is easier said than done. The Buddh International Circuit is planning to hold many international racing series which includes World Super Bikes and Moto GP (yet to be confirmed) but with the cold response Formula One has got this year, I am not sure how many people will be geared up for two-wheeler racing.
There were reports that Bernie Ecclestone is open to having two races in India, but looking at the recent race I don’t think it is a realistic aim. As a motorsports fan, I give a thumbs up to Indian Grand Prix, but as an author I have to say that there are plenty of things to think about for 2013.