BIC, a pale shadow of wondrous past

Buddh International Circuit

The Buddh International Circuit looks like an unsullied reminder of a glorious past from afar, but no sooner than you enter the paddock do you realise what seems like rose-tinted nostalgia is mostly rust. What stands bang in the middle of a nowhere-town somewhere in Greater Noida is a pale shadow of a wondrous past from a long, long time ago.

Gone are the days of the FIA (Federation Internationale Automobile) office at the VIP entrance bolstered by guards and Bernie Ecclestone’s entourage, and the common sight of some of the finest drivers the world has seen, a la the Schumachers and Hamiltons.

No more Ferrari scarlet. No more RedBull mash of blue and red. No more Silver Arrows. It’s mostly dank grey now.

It’s a barren walk from the parking lot through the paddock, but all signage bears signs of the Formula One years, including the second building in a slew which bears the names of Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber -- the then constructor's championship leaders -- at its doors.

Remember the time Vettel held aloft the trophy each of the three times the Grand Prix was held here? Or when a throng of A-list celebrities walked with careless abandon through sunlit annals of promise? Or when Webber barged into the media restroom since it was closest to the start-finish line?

Good times those. Well, those days are gone, replaced by those trying hard, very hard, to look the part. The pretenders. Clad in the biggest names from the fashion industry, they walked with their phones pointed at anything and everything. Smokers at every corner, chow mongers leaning heavily on food trucks, Instagram models, influencers, amateur bikers, women in racing overalls, and there were the dreamers too.

JK Tyre’s Festival Of Speed is an attempt at resuscitating the carcass that is now the BIC. Valiant is the only way to describe it.

With Jaypee Group in financial despair, the likelihood of Formula One returning to India is slim, though this time around the government looks eager to have them over. 

Formula One had its inaugural Indian Grand Prix in 2011 and by 2013 it had run its course - they didn’t even stick around to honour the four-year contract. One of the major reasons for this was the heavy tax levied on them by the Uttar Pradesh government. While most nations subsidise duties for Formula One for its economic benefits via tourism, the UP government -- in its archaic understanding -- didn’t relent.

Since F1’s exit, the BIC has a few national championships but mostly testing and track days for enthusiasts. Touted as one of the best tracks on earth, the Hermann Tilke-design remains stagnant for the most part. A track, which Jaypee Spent billions on, is a white elephant.

“Some of the roadblocks which were there are now gone but still a lot needs to be done in order to bring Formula One back to India,” said Sanjay Sharma, the head of the motor sport division in JK Tyre. “We want to bring that energy back to racing in India which is why we partnered with the X1 Racing League. We were considering Formula 3 in India this season but when the X1 came along, I figured it a good alternative. I think we’re on the right track. But the promotors of the race (Jaypee) need a lot of funding to bring F1 back. It won’t be easy, but it is a possibility.”

So, JK Tyre is forcing the situation by injecting a new lease of life into motor sport, yet again. What this does is bring attention to the BIC as evidenced by the 35,000-odd people in the stands on Sunday. 

Now, if that will lead to anything promising is anyone's guess.

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