October 26th, 2013 (F1plus/Victor Brown-Villedieu).- The Indian grand prix is in its third year of existence, and as things stand, quite possibly its last.
Hundreds of millions of dollars were spent transforming a small village into the racetrack that exists today but it came at the cost of upheaving thousands of people who inhabited the area previously. It begs the question: was it worth the effort put in to have all these people moved for another of F1’s vanity projects?
Well, despite the considered responses you’ll hear from the F1 fraternity about how great it is to be in India and how the country is gradually taking more of an interest in the sport, the reality is the idea to bring Formula One to India was a bad idea and a colossal waste of money.
Rewind five years ago and there was no F1 track, only a small village like many others in India with thousands of desperately poor people.
But F1’s march into the world’s emerging economies stops for no one and the villagers were made an offer they couldn’t refuse: a cash settlement which in one go lifted them out of poverty in return for the land needed to build the circuit.
And all for what? A track that is hardly used and has a shelf life of three years? Doesn’t seem worth it if you ask me.
And the idea that such a race was going to increase interest in racing among Indians is a fallacy perpetuated by the powerbrokers in India and F1 whose sole interests lie in the income generated by holding the race.
The reality is, even with modestly-priced tickets by European standards, the average event ticket is out of the reach of the overwhelming majority of India’s population and that will be clear to see on Sunday when most of the grandstands lie empty.
This isn’t to say F1 cannot visit places with significant social problems. After all, Formula One is not and should not be in the business of fixing the problems that are the duty of the government.
Take Brazil, a country with high levels of poverty. The country’s problems are not negated by F1’s arrival each year but its presence is welcomed by Brazilians and has the approval of most fans of the sport. This encapsulates part of what an F1 event is all about and highlights what is lacking from places like Bahrain, for example.
But it appears that, all too often, when decisions are being made about incorporating new countries into the Formula One calendar, common sense flies out of the window.
At the opposite end of the spectrum you have the most recent addition to the calendar in Austin, Texas. The appetite for racing in America is strong and it was absolutely right to bring F1 racing back to the country.
But the decision to construct an entirely new circuit when dozens of other perfectly suitable tracks already exist can only be described as idiotic.
In an era when F1 is trying to cut costs, these examples send out an entirely different message.
It is hard not to cast similar levels of doubt over next year’s race in Sochi, a race which will have the minor reprieve of including Russian youngsters Daniil Kvyat and Sergey Sirotkin, whose inclusion in the race should at least have a positive impact on attendances compared with what might have been the case without them competing.
As for India, it may return in 2015, it may not. Either way, it will stand as a permanent reminder to F1 that poorly thought-out grand prix are no substitute for a well-planned, correctly-positioned, fan-supported race track.