Formula One is the second most watched sport in the world after football, and its arrival in India will do wonders for the country.
The response generated by the inaugural Grand Prix of India, scheduled to be held at the Buddh International Circuit in Greater Noida, near Delhi, has been magnificent, and almost everywhere you go it is the topic of discussion.
Never in my wildest dreams did I believe that an F1 race hosted by our nation would create such a buzz.
The popularity of the sport has grown tremendously in India over the last decade and we can be proud that we have an Indian team and two Indian drivers on the F1 grid. It is only natural that the next step for us is to host a Grand Prix, and with the help of the Gaur family — of Jaypee Sports International Ltd., the promoters of the Grand Prix of India — this has become a reality.
India is rapidly becoming one of the most important and powerful players in the world of business, culture and sport. The Grand Prix of India is probably one of the largest privately hosted sporting events in the country and, more importantly, this is not a one-off event.
This is not like the cricket World Cup or the Commonwealth Games which don't come to India very often.
The Grand Prix of India is an event that will take place every year and so it is a perfect platform for companies to build their brands on a long-term basis.
Motorsport has always been popular in the country, but our biggest challenge has been funding. I now hope that more and more corporates step forward and reap the benefits of being associated with the sport. Almost all manufacturers and sponsors involved in F1 are selling their products in India as well; so from a commercial point of view the event makes perfect sense.
I strongly believe that if the Grand Prix of India becomes a success we will see more corporates getting involved in the sport.
The build-up to the race has been tremendous with leading Indian business houses finding a way to be associated with the Grand Prix.
Airtel, Mahindra & Mahindra, Sahara, Hero, JK Tyres and MRF are some of the big names associated with the event and, hopefully, the interest from the corporates will only increase in the years to come.
Vodafone, Red Bull, Tag Heuer, Sony and Samsung are some of the major multi-national companies that have invested almost a full year's marketing budget in the Grand Prix of India. This is very encouraging and as Indian organisations continue to enlarge their global footprint, the companies will clearly see that F1 is a fantastic platform to promote their brands.
From Sholavaram to the Buddh International Circuit, motorsport in India has come a long way. It is becoming more structured and is organised almost every day, which is necessary if we seriously wish to become the leaders in the world of motor racing.
We will have to ensure that we use the Grand Prix of India as a platform to develop motorsport at the grassroots level and focus on improving our standards and infrastructure.
Everything in motorsport stems from F1, so if we can make this event a success, I'm sure the results will percolate to the lower Formula categories as well.
(The writer is the president of the Federation of Motor Sports Clubs in India and father of F1 racer Karun Chandhok)