F1 might return to India, says top official at Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

The BIC, officially inaugurated in 2011, hosted F1 races until an abrupt exit in 2013 following the UP state government’s withdrawal of tax exemption


Ashwani Kumar

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Photo: Ashwani Kumar/KT
Photo: Ashwani Kumar/KT

Published: Sun 26 Nov 2023, 4:58 PM

Last updated: Sun 26 Nov 2023, 9:45 PM

Talks are underway for the much-awaited return of Formula One to India’s Buddh International Circuit (BIC), a top official said during a media roundtable at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

“Yes, there are some talks. I am optimistic,” Mohammed Ben Sulayem, president of FIA, the governing body of motorsport, told Khaleej Times.

The BIC, officially inaugurated in 2011, hosted F1 races until an abrupt exit in 2013 following the Uttar Pradesh state government’s withdrawal of tax exemption. However, this year India hosted a Formula E race in Hyderabad and a Moto GP at the BIC giving hopes for the return of more motorsport action, especially Formula One.

Also, the 2024 F1 season will be a 24-race calendar with the sport travelling to China for the first time since 2019. Diversity, in a sport dominated by Europe, has been a key pillar of Sulayem’s administration.

He pointed out that Akbar Ebrahim, an Indian, is the president of FIA’s International Karting Commission. “Why? Because he has the experience, passion, and know-how. And that’s the diversity I have. Normally it was from a certain area. Europe is so important to us. But also the rest of the world is important. So I’m optimistic, but the grassroots in India should also be supported there.”

Sulayem pointed out that both China and India are promising markets with populations of more than 1.4 billion, but the number of grassroots motorsport events held there was nothing compared to those in Europe where thousands of competitions get hosted. “That’s something wrong with the ratio,” Sulayem said, and noted that the FIA is pushing hard on grassroots when it comes to karting and cross-kart.

Meanwhile, the sport is set to get bigger with an additional team. In October, the FIA gave its approval to American team Andretti’s application bid to enter Formula One as the 11th team. Also, General Motors is set to join as a power unit supplier.

To sustain motorsport, Sulayem noted more teams are the way to go forward.

“When we opened the Expression of Interest, we did it for a good reason. How can I sustain motorsport? With more teams. And when someone comes to me and tells me: ‘I have GM. General Motors is coming’. How can I say no? My mission is not to make money but to sustain motorsport and growth.”

After a successful edition of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, the Emirati official is happy with the way things have shaped out at the Yas Marina Circuit.

“I landed here on a helicopter when this area was designated to have an F1 race. So, I have lived every single step of it,” he said while noting the role of volunteers and workers during the construction and studies for the circuit.

“People don’t see the hidden heroes sometimes. I am very much proud of what we achieved here,” Sulayem added.


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