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India lacks well-oiled system to handle Formula One: David Coulthard (Interview)

By Sandip Sikdar 

Former racing driver David Coulthard believes that India does not have a “well-oiled system” to host a sport like Formula 1. Coulthard was in India to drive a Red Bull on the streets of Hyderabad on Sunday, April 5.

The pinnacle of motorsport, F1, took place at the Buddh International Circuit (BIC) in Greater Noida for three consecutive years from 2011 to 2013. However, it disappeared from the calendar following tax and administrative hurdles the next year.

“There were issues whether it was for drivers withholding tax and things like that. We travel the world and pay taxes in a number of countries as we are foreign entertainers and we are performing there. It surprised me that India did not seem to have a well-oiled system of handling foreign entertainers as other countries,” Coulthard told IANS in a telephonic interview from London.

“This may be because it is still getting used to that as a concept, but it does surprise me when you say India is a powerhouse of engineering, creativity, work ethic and so many positive aspects that it did seem that there is a sort of accountancy at the government level which is a bit caught up in some sort of bureaucracy which didn’t embrace foreigners coming in to perform.”

The Scot, who raced in F1 from 1994 to 2008 for Williams, McLaren and Red Bull and is currently a race expert with BBC, echoed what international automobile federation (FIA) president Jean Todt said in Mumbai on Monday – that India deserves a Grand Prix.

While the race was not scheduled for the 2014 and 2015 seasons, F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone recently said that Formula One Management (FOM) and race promoters Jaypee Sports International (JPSI) are looking at a possibility of bringing back the race in 2016.

“Everyone in Formula 1 would like the Indian Grand Prix to be back because we enjoy it being a part of the World Championship. India is a huge country with over a billion population. There has got to be a future of Formula 1 within that population to develop the grassroots level talent,” said the 43-year-old, who raced in 247 GPs.

The Briton also blamed the JPSI for not honouring contractual obligations, news that IANS broke exactly a year ago.

“With a good track and many other reasons, we would like to be there, but somebody has not honoured their agreement. They signed it willingly, presumably, and then failed to keep it. I just don’t understand why people would sign something with no belief or intention of being able to honour it because it gives false hope,” added Coulthard, who has won 13 F1 races.

However, JPSI chief executive Sameer Gaur has often said it would honour all its commitments in totality.

Though there is a possibility of the race returning next season, history has shown that if a GP goes off the calendar, there are very few chances of it returning. Also, the constant addition of more races each season will hardly leave the calendar with any space to host another Grand Prix.

The 2015 Formula 1 season begins this weekend at the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne.(IANS)

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