Vicky Chandhok has played an instrumental role in getting Formula 1 to India and with the second edition of the race to be hosted this weekend, the president of the Federation of Motor Sports Club of India sees promise in the event despite the challenges. He took the time to speak to F1Pulse.com in an exclusive interview about the Indian Grand Prix...
The Indian sports ministry doesn’t recognise Formula 1 as a sport, labelling it as an entertainment event. What are your thoughts on that?
The government has got to change its approach and look at what it has done for Singapore because it has used Formula 1 as a platform for tourism. The way to do it is every hotel charges you S$100 for the two nights and that money goes towards paying the rights fees to run the Grand Prix. That's the kind of support the government in other countries are coming out to give. Whereas in India, it's still privately funded by the Jaypee Group and it is about time that the so-called authorities look beyond thinking of it just as a circus or just as an entertainment event! At the end of the day, if you take any sport today, it is entertainment a lot of the times because that's what brings the spectators and it is business for the rest of the time. Formula 1 or motorsport is a huge sport! Look at the fitness levels of drivers; they would put a lot of our athletes to shame. I honestly do believe that it needs a change of attitude.
What can the Federation of Motor Sports Club of India do to change that?
We keep trying. It's not for lack of trying. And we do hope that at some point of time we do get across to them. Our sports ministry has to look and has to understand that the inaugural Formula 1 Grand Prix last year did more for India in a positive way globally than anything else has ever done. We had the Commonwealth Games that was marred in controversy. Everything, the whole corruption scandal, the 2Gs, the 3Gs, and the rest of it. And here you have Formula 1; the Indian Grand Prix was rated as the best organised Grand Prix of the year. You feel proud as an Indian that you have delivered something on a global platform watched in so many nations around the world, by millions and millions of viewers that actually said 'hey, let's go and see what India is all about'.
You've got to change. You can't run with blinkers on anymore. You've got to accept certain facts that motorsport is doing something good for India. We're not asking the government for any funding. We never have. We're a self funded federation. We are running our national rally championships and the racing championships entirely funded by ourselves and our sponsors. The government doesn't come out and step in. (But) they can! They have got to realise that this is a platform that can make it better for them.
The ticket sales for the Indian GP have been slow but recent additions to the calendar, like Singapore, are doing well. Do you think that’s a major concern?
We're going through the Malaysian-syndrome where the second year will always be less in numbers. But that's also because in year one people still had to get used it. In the sense that you have to stand in lines, there will be traffic delays. You know in India everyone's like 'you know who I am?'... 'you don't know me?' that's a typical Indian thing. So there needs to be a certain sense of discipline but the encouraging fact is that it's been such a strong positive event that perhaps closer to the event we could find hopefully a surge in spectators.
Take Singapore out of the equation though. Singapore is different because the entertainment factor is more focussed upon than the Grand Prix. There's a concert and the stage is larger than a football field. Every night the amount of stuff there is for people to do and it's different stuff that they'll never do on a normal day. That makes the whole event special.