New Delhi: Formula One may not be able to threaten crickets unchallenged popularity in India but it can definitely come close, feels the motorsports president and chief executive officer Bernie Ecclestone.
The octogenarian British sports entrepreneur and billionaire was in the capital on Thursday to announce Bharti Airtel as the title sponsor for the Indian Grand Prix on October 30.
Asked whether Formula One would be able to match cricket in terms of popularity, Ecclestone said: Formula One is obviously new to India and it would take at least 2-3 years... we will never catch cricket, Im quite sure about that, but we got to try our best to do that. Im sure eventually we will get very close.
Since F1 is new in India, it would take a big effort to generate interest… perhaps extra effort, added Ecclestone after a short pause.
The F1 chief also said that his team of officials were constantly monitoring the preparations of the Buddh International Circuit in Greater Noida and expressed confidence that it would be ready long before the race.
It will be one of the best circuits and will be completed in time by September. There are no problems. People are there, checking everything on a daily basis. It will be in good shape, he said.
There were some concerns about the preparedness of the 5.14km track but International Automobile Federation (FIA) race director Charlie Whiting was happy with the progress when he visited the facility in February. Whiting is expected to visit again on September 1 for a final inspection.
Earlier this year, FIA shifted the race to December 11 to accommodate Bahrain Grand Prix before bringing it back in June to the original October 30 slot.
The race has been given an April slot next year, which has not pleased Federation of Motor Sports Clubs of India (FMSCI) chief Vicky Chandhok who reckons the drivers would struggle in the north India heat at that time of the year.
Asked about the importance of Indian market for Formula One, Ecclestone said: We got to remember that India is one of the top-five most important countries in the world today. So, for us, its extremely important to be in India as much as any other country in the world. So, when I came here first, I was a bit surprised having not been in India before.
I am very pleased with our association with Bharti Airtel which has demonstrated that they are the very aggressive and forward thinking company and I believe we are very good partners as we both project the same forward thinking, said Ecclestone, adding that 30 per cent of the total spectators will be from abroad, especially Europe.
The F1 boss claimed the race would produce several jobs and business worth billions of dollars. Races create lot of jobs and business worth dollars. We hope to do some good for India, he said.