With less than a week left for the Formula E Hyderabad E-Prix, the preparations are well underway, and the excitement in the atmosphere is palpable.
While the prospect of a race in the streets of Hyderabad itself is pretty exciting, the more exciting news here is that after a 10-year hiatus, we finally have an FIA-recognised world championship visiting India. This is huge!
Ever since Sebastian Vettel won the 2013 Indian GP, sealing his 4th world title, and of course, giving all of us *that* iconic picture of him bowing to his car, the motorsport scene in India has diminished significantly.
For starters, F1 never made a return to India after 2013, despite there being so many statements about 2014 only being a break from the calendar, and so on and so forth.
To compound that problem, the only Grade 1 certified track in India, the Buddh International Circuit fell into a myriad of financial issues and legal disputes, further complicating things. The taxation imposed at that time also played a role in preventing an F1 return in India.
However, the main reason behind the small 3-race stint of F1 in India is the lack of attendance. All the aforementioned “problems” would’ve magically disappeared if every race in India had a sell-out crowd. However, that was not the case, and the financial gamble behind the show began to falter.
However, 10 years later, the situation is different. The economy is improved, the recent explosion of F1 has generated a positive ripple effect for all categories, and more importantly, the race is happening in the centre of the city!
The biggest drawback of Buddh was its location. Located on the outskirts of Noida, the BIC was 60 km away from the Delhi International Airport, which is where most tourists would’ve landed to come to the race. This, coupled with the fact that there was nothing to “tour” around the BIC, made hosting the race a money pit for the promoter, and sponsors also didn’t see the point, as time progressed.
It’s almost like FE saw that and went “I’m gonna do the exact opposite of that!”. Located next to the Hussain Sagar Lake of Hyderabad, the track is less than 10km away from the airport, and less than 5km away from the central railway station!
Tickets start from as low as Rs. 1000/-, and the event is happening in central Hyderabad, which has great tourist attractions very close by. Overall this changes the equation financially for a lot of backers, and even the government!
This would explain the fact that initially there were solid talks with other cities such as Mumbai and Delhi to host the race as well. However, after COVID, Hyderabad was the most promising candidate.
To host the race, the city has spent more than 140 crore rupees to construct the circuit. The circuit itself has had 2 iterations, with the second one being the final one, designed by Driven International. These folks are the same ones who redesigned Yas Marina.
General knowledge aside, this race weekend is going to serve as a litmus test for more world-class motorsport in India. The whole world will watch the response to the Hyderabad E-Prix.
Even for India in general, motorsport serves as an opportunity for increased world tourism. The variables cannot get better than this, location, pricing and novelty, everything is in place. Hence, expectations are high.
2023 in general is highly crucial for the future of motorsport in India. Apart from Formula E, there is the Red Bull show run in Mumbai on March 12th, MotoGP is coming to India for the first time, breathing life into the Buddh International Circuit again!
So, in more ways than one, this Saturday is an important day in the history of Indian motorsport. Let’s just hope it sustains this time!