|Around 95,000 fans enjoyed the race at the Buddh International Circuit [GALLO/GETTY]|
After all the hype, India’s inaugural Formula One Grand Prix on Sunday appeared to exceed expectations, prompting organisers to focus on raising the profile of motor racing in the country.
Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel won the race in front of a huge crowd of more than 95,000 spectators.
Despite some of the facilities remaining unfinished and traffic issues affecting spectators on the day, the reaction from drivers and officials was positive, galvanising officials to capitalise on its success.
“We will start organising races by February next year in an effort to keep the momentum. We will finalise a calendar by the end of November,” said Jaypee Group chief executive Sameer Gaur.
“The FIA has been pleasantly surprised, they are very happy. If you see the garage, the pit lanes, the technical aspects, this circuit is really good.
“After we sort out some technical issues, we will work further on landscaping. We are in touch with FIA officials and are already getting feedback on what can be done to improve the facility.”
“There’s pretty good advertising for this place and I think the word is going to get out,” said McLaren’s Jenson Button, who placed second behind double world champion Vettel.
“Even though it was the first race it was a pretty good crowd here. And the Indian people seem to love motor racing,” he added.
“I think it will turn out to be one of the great events on the Formula One calendar.”
Formula One head Bernie Ecclestone, who had expressed some concern before arriving in the country about whether the circuit would be ready, was impressed.
“F1 is as popular in India as cricket in France but things will improve drastically in the years to come,” declared the 81-year-old, who normally leaves once the race has started but this time stayed on to watch the action.
“I’m very, very happy with it, and everybody else is as well. We’ve nothing to complain about,” he told reporters afterwards.
“There are bits and pieces they can do, but this is a prototype, so I’m sure they’ll get down and have a good look at everything.”
The Buddh International Circuit track itself was praised by drivers.
“It was fantastic,” said Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso.
“Okay, it was a very narrow line of normal grip and outside that line there was a lot of dust and low grip but this is normal for new circuits and I think with the years that will improve.”
Button agreed the dust was a challenge but the positives outweighed the negatives.
“The circuit itself is a great circuit to drive, it’s a fun circuit, it’s a real challenge,” he said.
“A massive challenge. And it’s one of the more physical circuits as well because there aren’t really that many for us any more. So it’s great. The only thing is the dust but I don’t really know what you can do about that in India.”
The Jaypee Group, which has primary business interests in real estate, spent more than $200 million in building the track complex and almost as much in other expenses after being granted the rights to the event for 10 years.
The group is also building a sports city around the Formula One track that will include an international-standard cricket stadium.