Sport & Culture

India Formula One Grand Prix Takes Shape

Despite some unique challenges, Indian Formula One racing presses forward.

The India Formula One Grand Prix is fast on its way to becoming an integral part of the racing calendar.

While China and especially South Korea have taken to the sport and hosting duties in a way that can only be described as mixed, India has pulled out the stops despite a poor start.  

It was fortunate that the season  approached an exciting climax, and in the second year of operation, the Buddh International Circuit has been getting the thumbs up from all concerned. 

In the rush to complete the track last year, the circuit and facilities had something of an unfinished feel and that wasn’t all.

Stray dogs roamed all over the place, causing embarrassment for organizers especially when one made it on to the track and temporarily caused the first ever practice session to be halted. 

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The dog issue has been solved, according to the organizers. 

“We detected between six to seven entry points through which dogs or other stray animals were able to intrude on the circuit," Askari Zaidi told the BBC.

"These points have been completely sealed off, while fencing around the circuit has now got two layers. In addition there will be a few teams of dog catchers around the circuit." 

"A huge number of labourers were camped around the circuit. They used to cook on site and that in turned attracted the dogs. But this time that sort of thing is not happening. So, we are confident," Mr Zaidi said. 

While there may have been a lack of dogs disturbing the race, this does not mean that all attention has been completely focused on the drivers.

The decision from racing team Ferrari to display the flag of the Italian navy on their cars caused a stir.

 Two Italian sailors are awaiting trial for shooting two Indian fisherman in February, mistaking them for pirates. It has soured relations between the two nations.

The team said the gesture was done "in the hope that the Indian and Italian authorities will soon find a solution to the situation".

Official reaction from Italy seemed positive. Italian foreign minister Giulio Terzi tweeted: "It shows the support of the whole country for our sailors."

The reaction from New Delhi was less so. Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin said: “Using sporting events to promote a cause which is not of a sporting nature and one which is sub judice is not in keeping with the spirit of sport.” 

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Ferrari’s head of press operations said the flags would stay during the Indian Grand Prix. “It’s not a statement, we are asking for the (sailors’) issue to be solved,” said Luca Colijanni. “If the flag is politically motivated, it can be argued that Lewis Hamilton using Bob Marley’s image encouraged smoking dope.” 

Formula One supreme Bernie Ecclestone, who has waxed lyrical about the improvements made at the circuit, was less forthcoming in his comments about the row, saying that the sport was not political.

Despite the diplomatic spat, there was a sense that Formula One and India are set to have a long relationship. And for the record, Sebastian Vettel won the race to stay on top of the standings.