Though much has been said in reaction to Lewis Hamilton’s recent tweet, he makes a pertinent point as a country, India should better focus on the really important things that need to be done than building a superlative race-track. Where his words or knowledge probably took a horribly wrong turn from Stevenage to Noida is to underestimate the fervor that people have for Formula 1.
The Buddh International Circuit is a track that was built for racing, receiving accolades from not only Lewis Hamilton himself who called it “fantastic”, but also from other racing greats like Nico, Timo, Sebastian, Fernando Mark, Adrian and Michael. Designed by Herman Tilke in consultation with the best F1 drivers, both past and present, the Buddh International Circuit has had its moments. The favourite of a range of racing drivers, it hosted F1 for three years from 2011 to 2013 and Sebastian Vettel became World Champion right here at the BIC. But since then, Formula One has never returned to India.
What has led to its demise? A combination of unsound corporate decisions combined with the unfortunate government policy sounded the death knell for the sport in India. The Jaypee Group (who built the track) wanted to try their best to recover their investment of $ 463 million immediately. When they fell out with F1 supremo, Bernie Ecclestone, the track was reduced to being a world-class facility that mostly hosts journalists for car launches.
Former UP chief minister Mayawati, whose legacy largely is building a Rs 120 crore memorial in her name in Noida, also deemed F1 as an entertainment and not a sport during her rule. As a result, she wanted F1 to pay 65% Entertainment Tax, which was simply not possible.
The result is that one of the world’s finest sporting facilities lies desolate, waiting for a regime change....