Bernie Ecclestone had doubts that next Sunday's inaugural Indian Grand Prix would take place as recently as two weeks ago, but Formula One's commercial rights holder is now assured that the first Formula One race to be held on the sub-continent will be a success.
“I was pessimistic a fortnight ago. I was sent pictures of the track and I thought: ‘Christ, we're not going to get it finished in time',” he said. “But what they have done in the meantime — and I've been sent more recent pictures — is incredible. The people there are very anxious to be sure they're doing a good job and they are very passionate about their sport.”
New venues — and plans for a race in New Jersey in 2013 could be announced as soon as next week — always create headaches but the race at the Buddh International Circuit on the outskirts of New Delhi brought about a severe migraine following the stories that preceded the Commonwealth Games in India's capital a year ago. Now, though, Ecclestone is eagerly anticipating the last three races of the season. “I'm really looking forward to [next] Sunday's race. And I think here, and in Abu Dhabi and Brazil, the racing will be even keener than it has been this season.
“The drivers have been concerned about finishing second or third or fourth, because of the state of the championship. They have been anxious not to fall off the road. But now they don't care. Now these guys will be racing to win.”
HRT's Indian driver Narain Karthikeyan, who was at the track on Saturday, said: “There is still some work being done on the landscaping but everyone is working 24/7 to make sure everything will be fine on the day.”
Karthikeyan, who became the first Indian F-1 driver with Jordan in 2005, is convinced the fans will take to their new sport. “Those who come will be fans for ever,” he said. “I'm expecting a good crowd and a terrific atmosphere with everyone anxious to see what it is all about.” Formula One was always likely to come to India, where the burgeoning economy is seeing a rapid growth in the already healthy car market. © Guardian News and Media Limited 2011