NEW DELHI, Aug 18, 2011 (AFP) - India are on course to hold their maiden Formula One race in October, F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone said Thursday, but urged organisers to work hard to generate interest in the cricket-mad country.
The race will be held at the $350 million Buddh International Circuit in Greater Noida on the outskirts of New Delhi on October 30.
The 5.14-kilometre (3.2-mile) circuit, designed by renowned German architect Hermann Tilke, is still under-construction but Ecclestone said it would be ready for the race.
"It will be one of the nicest circuits and will be completed in time," Ecclestone said.
"People are working hard and checking everything on a daily basis. It will be in good shape."
Ecclestone, however, warned organisers to step up efforts to make the sport popular in India. "F1 is new to India," he told reporters at a function to announce telecom major Airtel as the title sponsor of the race.
"It would take efforts to generate interest. We will never catch cricket but we can get close to it...perhaps with some extra effort.
"India is a major part of the world and we wanted a championship race here. When I came here, I was pleased with what I saw. Things will be fine. In the end, we will do good things for India."
Formula One has been followed closely in India since 2005 when local driver Narain Karthikeyan raced for the now-defunct Jordan team.
Karthikeyan returned to the circuit in 2011 following a deal with the Spanish Hispania racing team.
Another Indian, Karun Chandhok, drove last year for Hispania, who finished 11th out of 12 in its inaugural year.
Airtel official Sanjay Kapoor said his company was delighted to be associated with the motorsport event, but declined to reveal how much was paid for the title sponsorship.
"Such events do not come cheap," said Kapoor. "We see value in this investment. F1 is a sport and Airtel is a brand. Both resonate well in the contemporary markets."
Kapoor refused to comment on whether Airtel had pulled out of the title sponsorship of the Champions League Twenty20 cricket event in order to join the F1 bandwagon.
"You take decisions keeping in mind the brand," he said. "We keep balancing the portfolios."
Airtel ended its three-year deal worth $40 million with the Champions League after just two years earlier this month, which local media said was due to lack of interest in the multi-nation club tournament.