It is high time the Indian government realises the potential of hosting marquee motorsport events like Formula One, JK Tyre Managing Director Raghupati Singhania has said. Singhania’s comments come in the wake of five-time Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton’s controversial statement in which he questioned the need to host a Formula One race in a “poor” country like India.
It cost Rs 2000 crore to build Buddh International Circuit (BIC) which has now become a ‘white elephant’ after Formula One left Indian shores in 2013. “It (BIC) is a huge investment for a country like ours. It is unfortunate (that not many racing events happen at BIC),” Singhania told PTI on the sidelines of the JK Tyre National Racing Championships held at BIC over the weekend.
“We were involved with F1 as a support partner when the race came to India. My good friend Bernie Ecclestone (former F1 boss) once told me ‘it is your government which puts all kinds of hurdle’.”
If it was not for the complex tax policy, Formula One would have survived in India, he said. “F1 is like a circus, they come and go and our government imposed import duty on their goods. That is the only reason they pulled out. Otherwise, India would still be on the F1 map.
“As a country, we need to realise that this is a global sporting event and an opportunity to boost the profile of our nation.”
When asked about Hamilton’s opinion that India was better off building schools than a Formula One track, Singhania added: “If I was an alien I would also perhaps react similarly. He doesn’t know the realities of India. “We should move on from what happened in the past and look at the future.”
The Indian Grand Prix was staged from 2011 to 2013 with Sebastian Vettel winning all three races for Red Bull. The inaugural edition saw close to 90,000 people attending the Grand Prix before the number fell to 65,000 the following year. The high-profile race was eventually dropped after three editions due to taxation issues and financial troubles of promoter Jaypee Group.