FORMULA ONE FOR DELHI

Formula One to come to Delhi, India

F1 2009 season may see Formula One cars on Rajpath-India Gate-Lutyen's Delhi circuit in New Delhi, India.

15 May, 2007

BY OUR AUTOMOBILE CORRESPONDENT

Singapore has just bagged what might potentially become the first night race for Formula One - but India's chances of getting its own F1 race is getting closer too. The gears have been turning for a while inside Bernie Ecclestone's head, ably wound up by Vijay Mallya of Kingfisher - and suddenly the buzz around the potential of New Delhi as a Formula One venue has intensified.

The Formula One management bossman’s statement that he was ‘personally enthusiastic’ about having a round of the F1 championship in India in the near future has come as sweet music to India’s Formula One racing fans. Okay, agreed that most of them believe Michael Schumacher and Ferrari to be what it is all about, and Vijay Mallya is a sponsor of the Toyota F1 Racing team - but what the hell, it is coming here, and that is what matters.


Narain Karthikeyan, India's first Formula One driver. Did not have a great time in F1, unfortunately.

There is increasing likelihood that Formula One may make its debut in India in 2009.

Bringing F1 to India is on the priority list for many - some past F1 enthusiasts, like Chandrababu Naidu are are looking right now at the right formula to get back into power in Hyderabad first and thus can't focus much on F1. But there are others. Like Vijay Mallya, the United Breweries group chief, who had said that he would push for a racing track in the national capital, New Delhi.

Mallya wants New Delhi to have a street race circuit in the city for Formula 1 along the lines of the Monaco track. Significantly, Mallya is now the chairman of the Federation of Motor Sports Clubs of India (FMSCI). The FMSCI is currently moving actively to get things done; and in the overall excitement leading up to the Commonwealth Games in New Delhi in 2010, another big sporting event would fit right in. Mallya had recently got Ralf Schumacher of Toyota F1 Racing to meet Delhi chief minister Shiela Dixit. Bernie has all but confirmed that India, and New Delhi, has been identified as a future F1 destination.

Add to this, the recent visit of F1 track designer Hermann Tilke. Tilke was in New Delhi recently, and he was looking around the streets of Delhi to consider what would be the ideal route for Formula One cars. So yes, this is not a rumour anymore - and we are definitely getting closer to Formula One cars barreling down our streets. He met the Delhi CM Sheila Dikshit, and later said that yes, he would like to position Delhi as a street circuit, and yes again, he would be meeting her again to discuss the little matter of a Formula One race here.

F1 New Delhi race circuit picture
Right-Click and View Image for a slightly bigger image in Firefox.

In an ideal scenario, there should at least be one local Formula One driver when F1 lands in Dilli. Bernie Ecclestone has said that Chennai kid Karun Chandhok is seen as a talented driver who stands a to be the second Indian to get an F1 seat. Narain Karthikeyan was the first Indian to compete in Forumla 1 in 2005. He created a record as the first one, but definitely not as the one who did a great battle - saddled as he was with a paid seat on one of the backmarker Jordan cars. Here is to hoping that Chandok does get into Formula One, and hopefully in one of the cars that battle it out at least right behind the top-rung F1 teams.

According to reports, the FMSCI is already working on a couple of model circuits and the idea is to position Delhi as an F1 street circuit like Monaco. Among the many proposals, one of the most popular ideas has the F1 track starting from Rajpath, going all the way to the India Gate roundabout, curves into the two parallel roads that go around Rajpath, zooms in front of Vigyan Bhavan and behind Meridien Hotel and back to end the race at Rajpath. Security was one concern, but considering that this is already a high security area which is cordoned off during Independence day and Republic Day celebrations, it should not be too difficult to seal off the area and allow only legitimate visitors in during the F1 race weekend.

It is also being talked about by motoring enthusiasts that Delhi is perfect for the race track. With the infrastructure and airport facilities to be spruced up in time for the Commonwealth Games, the laying of a street circuit is expected to incur substantially less investment compared to starting it all from scratch. This means the New Delhi F1 circuit could be made ready with much less than the minimum Rs 400 crore otherwise needed to put up a greenfield track.

 

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