Formula Bust: Karun Chandhok Rues Lack Of Govt Support For Motorsport

Racer turned commentator feels homegrown driver crucial to sustain interest

Karun Chandhok competed in Formula 1 between 2009-2010.

Indian Formula 1, once roaring with promise, has now sputtered out of fuel. And racer turned driver Karun Chandhok misses the relatively good old days. 

"Honestly it's been a bit of a disappointment, a bit of a shame about how much the interest has gone down actually,” Chandhok said in an interview to PTI at the Formula E season finale in London. "That period around 2008 to 2013 we had two Indians in F1 (Narain Karthikeyan and Chandhok), we had a team in F1 (Force India), we had a race (Indian GP) and the interest was amazing. You can't imagine that these days." 

The current crop of drivers, such as Jehan Daruvala, Arjun and Kush Maini, have raced in F2 and F3 but were a long way off from F1, Chandhok said. 

Chandhok pointed to several factors for the decline of motorsport in India, including lack of government support.

"If you look at any of the recent countries that have backed motorsport, whether it's Bahrain, Saudi Arabia even, and I'm choosing the Middle Eastern Asia, where the sport is growing. Singapore is another one which recognizes and understands what motor racing can bring to the country,” Chandhok said.

"The amount of tourists who now go to watch motor racing in these places is putting money back in the economy, and unfortunately, in Delhi, when we had the Grand Prix, we never really had the backing of the government. 

"It's quite tough for the central government to do the projects, maybe they can work with state governments. The state governments as well as the central government need to get behind it."

The perilous financial condition of under-debt race promoter Jaypee Group, and tax levies on the race by the Uttar Pradesh government, led to a premature end of the Indian GP after just three races (2011-13). 

Speaking about the current generation of Indian drivers, Chandhok said, "Jehan's future is in Formula E. I can see him racing here with Mahindra next year, probably. Kush has done a very good job in his rookie season in F2 this year. He’s done some very strong races and was on the podium in Australia, but it's tough at the moment for both of them to make that last step into F1.”

Giving the example of cricket and the IPL, Chandhok said homegrown talent was crucial to generate interest in a sport. 

“IPL has really exploded. So because of that, other sports are struggling a little bit but ultimately not having an Indian presence in F1 has had a negative impact on the sport as a whole," Chandhok said.

On a positive note, he praised the debut Formula E event in India earlier this year. "The Hyderabad event was terrific, there were no real traffic issues, no issues in terms of the track safety. We had a bit of dust which is not a major problem I think. On the whole it was a good event,” Chandhok said.

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