NEW DELHI: Both Formula one boss Bernie Ecclestone and organisers of the Indian Grand Prix Jaypee Group on Tuesday confirmed that the 2014 India round will have to be dropped to tweak the racing calendar and it will now be held in the first half of 2015.
Ecclestone, who has been controlling the F1 empire for nearly 40 years, said from his London office that he and his Formula 1 management always wanted the India round early in the season, but the organisers preferred October.
“When we signed the five-year deal with Jaypee, we were keen on going to India in the first half and Jaypee wanted it to be in October. We gave in at that time, but now it looks we will have the race early 2015,” Ecclestone, 82, said.
Jaypee, later in the day, more or less came around to Ecclestone’s view. Sameer Gaur, managing director, Jaypee Sports International (JPSI), said that he would have preferred the race in the festive season, but if the F1 management wants it in the beginning of the season, he has no objection.
“October-November suits us weatherwise and it is also a festive season. But if Formula One Management (FOM) wants us to hold our race in March 2015, we don’t have any problem with that,” said Gaur. A JPSI source added that the decision was arrived at after prolonged discussions with Ecclestone.
Shifting the Indian Grand Prix to early 2015 would mean the British magnate will not be celebrating his birthday in India for the first time in four years, assuming he will be here for the October 2013 race.
He said the 2014 round will not take place as it would be impossible for Jaypee to host two races within six months. As it is, the hosts shell out $40 million (Rs 237.7 crore) for every F1 race at Buddh International Circuit (BIC) as licensing fee.
“It (hosting one race in October 2014 and another in early 2015) was too close. Therefore, after speaking to promoters, we think it is best not to have a race in 2014 and have one in 2015,” said Ecclestone, who will present the 2014 calendar to the governing International Automobile Federation ( FIA) in September.
However, Malaysia hosted two races in a short span of time when it organised the last race of 2000 in October and from the following year onwards the round is being held in March.
Ecclestone said during the Hungarian Grand Prix last week that the Indian Grand Prix was unlikely to happen next year and the reason for it was ‘political’. It is interpreted as the teams not being happy with the taxation policy of India and the red tape involved.
Asked about the challenges facing the Indian Grand Prix, Ecclestone said: “There are issues that need to be sorted out in your country. I hope the organisers are able to deal with it at the earliest.”
Having a race at the start of the season means India will have to be clubbed with Australia, and the Asian nations Malaysia, Bahrain and China.
Ecclestone did not specify how he would fit India in the 2015 calendar, merely saying: “We will have to club India with the four rounds in the Asia Pacific region.”
The F1 czar has a possible 22 races jostling for space on the calendar with teams expressing a strong preference for a maximum of 20.
Russia is looking forward to its first race in the Black Sea resort of Sochi towards the end of next year, and a Grand Prix in New Jersey, US, is also planned for 2014. Austria is also keen on returning to the F1-fold after an 11-year break.
India first hosted a Grand Prix in 2011 and this year’s race is scheduled for Oct 27 as the 16th round of the 19-event card. The two races in India have been won by Red Bull’s triple world champion Sebastian Vettel.
The inaugural edition was attended by 95,000 fans while the number dropped to 60,000 in the second year.
“The second year is always difficult for the organisers. I hope bigger crowds turn up for the third edition,” said Ecclestone.
Asked whether he would want Indian GP to continue after the five-year contract, Ecclestone said: “I really want it to continue, but it all depends on a lot of other factors. The sport is expanding its base every year.”