Formula 1

Chandhok Optimistic About Indian GP Impact

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The Indian Grand Prix is the new kid on the block for the 2011 Formula One season as Bernie Ecclestone takes his F1 bandwagon off to pastures new once more.

Following success in countries such as China, Bahrain, Singapore and Abu Dhabi, the huge marketing potential of India will be tapped into this year.

Karun Chandhok, 2010 Hispania race driver and newly confirmed Team Lotus test driver, is extremely optimistic about the impact that the 2011 Indian Grand Prix can have on the Asian involvement in motorsport, something he is keen to develop.

He explained: “I think both Tony Fernandes (Lotus Team Manager) and I share a lot of common values and thoughts on how we'd like to see both team and driver work and also how we would both like to see a bigger Asian influence in Formula One.

“I think any event Asia is good for our part of the world, with Formula One being top of the pile if you like. I think it'll be great for Formula One and great for India obviously.”

And the fan base in India is huge.  When you think of Indian sporting icons, cricket appears to be the only major sport that is followed with figures such as Sachin Tendulkar almost worshipped.

But Chandhok is aware of the huge numbers who watch and follow F1, a market which is waiting to be commercially milked.

He added: “We have 25 million viewers who watch Formula One on TV and that's before we have a Grand Prix. Even if you get one or even half a percent to a race you've got 150,000 people there. The race will hopefully be better than other new races.

“It is especially good for Formula One because if you look at any car today, 90% of the sponsors and manufacturers are all selling their services in India and it's still a developing market.

“A lot of people said this about China but I think India is different in that we already have an established fan base for the sport.”

And Chandhok loves to show these fans that someone from their part of the world can make it in the cut-throat world of F1, currently through his media work with ESPN Star in India.

He continued: “I've done various bits of media work for ESPN Star in India and generally people seem to think I do a good job.

“It's good to know because I do quite enjoy it. It's good for the viewers, especially in Asia where it's not a knowledgeable fan base built up.

“It's nice for them to hear from someone from their own parts giving them insight that they wouldn't otherwise have.”

The track itself will hopefully yield more overtaking places than some of the newer tracks on the calendar. Hermann Tilke, F1 track designer, has put pen to paper once more to come up with a 5km track accommodating a 150,000 seating capacity.

The track has 16 medium speed corners as well as a huge back straight to allow cars to reach 320kph making it one of the fastest circuits on the calendar.

With a fresh circuit being constructed, there are always worries about the time scale but Chandhok, a circuit ambassador, allayed any fears that the circuit would be late and we would endure another Korean Grand Prix debacle.

He said: “I'm a consultant and brand ambassador for the GP Group, the people behind the project so I've been working with them, helping and advising in whatever way I can over the last year or so.

“I would say that I visit the site pretty much every three weeks to see how things are going. Progress is going ok and construction is all on schedule.

“The team of engineers seems very happy with progress in terms of timelines and the circuit should be ready around July 31st to still give us a few months in case of delays so we won't have a Korea situation again.”


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Joe is covering anything to do with motorsport for The Checkered Flag and running a British GT site for the 2011 season - Find him tweeting at @JWFinnerty
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