In general, Indian fans – no matter what the sport – bring a unique and amazing atmosphere to stadiums, the manner in which they enjoy their beloved sports always special.
Until today, F1 remains one of the most followed sports in India, with hundreds of thousands of fans tuning in to watch the F1 races live. Over the past few years, there has also been a massive surge in the number of Indian people who use F1 betting sites to bet on races online.
However, it has been a long time since they were able to watch a Grand Prix in their own country. Why so?
What happened to the Indian Grand Prix?
India hosted three F1 races at the Buddh International Circuit from 2011 to 2013 despite signing a five-year deal with F1. In the 2014 season, the race had to be cancelled due to tax issues surrounding the FIA and the circuit owners.
The tax issue arose because the Indian government does not see F1 as a sport, it in fact sees it as entertainment. So if that is the case then the government are owed more money. However, the FIA were not willing to pay the more expensive tax that was imposed on them by the government.
Since this issue, there has been no communication from the government about reinstating the interest and having the Grand Prix in the country. It’s like rolling some luckydice and hoping that they have a change of heart.
Chandhok: The first Indian Grand Prix had 110,000 fans
There have only ever been two drivers from India in F1 history. Karun Chandhok and Narain Karthikeyan. However, there has not been an Indian driver in the F1 since the 2012 season and it is looking unlikely that anyone is going to be breaking through.
Like with many sports, the popularity comes with backing someone from your country and relating to them. This is the same with the Indian population who can fully invest themselves into sports like cricket, but it is harder in F1 with no driver from India in top flight.
Former driver Chandhok stated: “India had, and still has, a huge F1 fanbase. When we went to race at places like Istanbul, I remember 2007 being on the grid, we looked at the grandstand and there were 11 people in. In contrast, the first Indian Grand Prix had 110,000.
“It was very, very powerful. Especially the first couple of years. And unfortunately, that’s died away as the race has gone away.
“The absolute peak of interest in F1, or in motorsport in general, was 2010-2012 because you had Narain [Karthikeyan] and myself who were driving in F1 and Force India had just been taken over, and we had the Grand Prix.
“It’s just a shame that financially, the government wasn’t willing to back it,” explained Chandhok who made 11 Grand Prix starts in spells with underfunded HRT and Lotus of the Tony Fernandes days. He is now a respected pundit and part of the Sky F1 team.
So what will happen in the future?
It looks highly unlikely that we will see the Indian Grand Prix return after so long without it. The government would have to have a huge change of heart to decide that it is right to host a Grand Prix in the country despite the circuit being on the edge of Delhi.
With COVID hitting the country hard in terms of money and morale, it looks like the Grand Prix might have to wait and the fans of F1 may just have to watch it on their TV’s rather than live in their own country.