End of the road for Formula One in India?

NEW DELHI: In just over a week's time, the lights will be turned on in Melbourne to get the 2014 season of Formula One rolling. For F1 in India though, it seems to be lights out - in the foreseeable future at least. 

F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone made it clear that the Indian Grand Prix, which was taken off this year's calendar, will not be making a comeback in 2015 as well. The Indian GP has only completed three out of its five-race contract. 

"At the moment, India won't be on for next year for sure," Ecclestone told a news agency on Wednesday. "Probably 2016 ... they're gradually getting over all the bureaucracy with the tax position inside the country and the general finance," the F1 boss added. 

The scenario for motorsports in India hasn't improved significantly since F1 first came to India in 2011. It is not even recognized as a 'sport' in this country, and coupled with the fact that organizers Jaypee Sports International Limited (JPSI) have financial troubles of their own, it's highly unlikely that the Buddh International Circuit (BIC) in Greater Noida will see quality motor-racing anytime soon. 

"JPSI would not like to react to media reports on F1 Indian Grand Prix not happening in 2015 as we will discuss the situation with the Formula One Management soon and we're hopeful that things will be sorted out." JPSI MD & CEO Sameer Gaur said in a statement on Thursday. 

Apart from the race hosting fees to be paid to the Formula One Management (FOM), which is in excess of $40 million, JPSI have been asked to cough up Rs 10 crore each year for the National Sports Development Fund as well as the customs duty on behalf of the FOM as well as the teams in the BIC paddock during the race. The organizers feel that unless they get some concessions from the government it will be very difficult to host an F1 race. 

It is learnt that the World Superbike Series race which was supposed to take place last year was also cancelled as JPSI refused to pay the Rs 10 crore to the NSDF required for getting permission from the sports ministry for hosting the race. To add to that, Indian motorsports governing body FMSCI is not recognized as a national sports federation by the government. 

"We have already submitted the necessary paperwork required to gain recognition from the sports ministry. But we can't start any dialogue with them till the general elections are over and the new government comes to power," Akbar Ebrahim, chairman of new racing commission of FMSCI told TOI on Thursday. 

Ebrahim said that as a national federation they can only try and explain to the Indian government the importance of F1. 

"We can't influence the sporting policies of the country. We can only tell the sports ministry that F1 is an iconic event and having a race in the country is a huge boost for motorsports right from the grassroots level. The ministry 

has to understand that motorsports is not only about F1 but also includes other events like biking, off-roading etc. Also while motorsports may be entertainment, it is also a sport like cricket as we also have drivers competing for trophies," Ebrahim said. 

With the government's attitude towards motorsports unlikely to change anytime soon, it definitely looks like the curtain has fallen on the F1 carnival in India.