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Indian GP: Why does Bernie Ecclestone want to axe the race?

F1 Grand Prix Of India

Is the sun setting on the Indian GP?

News has come out from the Hungarian Grand Prix paddock that the Indian Grand Prix will likely not be a part from of the calendar from 2014 onwards. Every Indian fan would have been shell-shocked to hear that as the sport was just starting to gather momentum in the country and the fans had started garnering hopes of seeing F1 cars whiz past them for many years to come.

But why is India facing the brunt? Has the decision been hastily made or was it long overdue? Let’s analyse the facts one by one.

First of all, Sochi and New Jersey are almost confirmed to host their inaugural Grands Prix next year. Assuming no other race is struck off, that makes it 21 races – one more than the longest season in history which was just last year. All looked well and good till last week, when the Austrian GP landed out of the blue.

With full financial backing from Red Bull owner Dietrich Mateschitz, it was only a matter of time for that to happen. So now we have a 22-race calendar, which according to the teams is too much to handle with extra pre-season tests required for the new power units. Even if the FIA tries to maintain the average two-week gap between races, the season is sure to spill into December, which is unacceptable.

It was agreed that the season would not extend to more than 2o races and, therefore, two races had to be axed. No surprises then as to which two were chosen – Korea and India.

One could argue as to how India could be dropped when the contract runs till 2015. Well, Formula 1 is a sport with profits running into millions of dollars and it is the duty of supremo Bernie Ecclestone to see from where he could earn profits of that scale without much hassle.

Here we can take up the interesting case of Bahrain. Desert, extreme heat, no atmosphere, riots and what not. Why is F1 staying there then? The answer lies in the financial conditions.

F1 earns revenue from three sources – race fee, track-side advertising and sponsorship, and TV broadcasting. With the current turmoil in the country, many sponsors don’t want their logos displayed on the cars as that could send a wrong signal to the public. So that decreases the revenue from the sponsorship side a bit, but Bernie’s complex model extracts commensurate revenue from this Grand Prix through a higher race fee.

The simple point is that Bernie is getting what he wants without much trouble (exactly the point which goes against India) and as he makes all the deals with the race organizers, wherever he says F1 should go, the circus goes.

Do the same points go against India? Some do, some don’t.

Weather

As the race is held in October, the weather is pleasant so that is a factor which goes in favour.

Race Fee

We see that wherever the government of the country supports the race, it prospers.

It is not rocket science that the government has a much higher funding capability than a private entity like the Jaypee Group. But you wouldn’t expect much from a government which labels the sport as “entertainment”, would you?

It is the same old situation with every possible perk for cricket players and absolutely nothing for other sportspersons.

The only silver lining is that many Indians are getting bored of cricket and taking to other sports, especially Formula 1, and hopefully, that might help in changing the minds of the leaders sitting in Delhi.

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