The Formula One race flags off at the Buddh International Circuit (BIC), Greater Noida, near New Delhi, Sunday afternoon. It is clear that the weekend will be an extraordinary demonstration of the new wealth and power of the Indian elite.
India’s expanding middle class is ripe for new forms of entertainment such as F-1, the queen of sports. A report released last week by Credit Suisse bank estimated that after tripling over the past decade, India's total wealth will double over the next five years to reach nearly $9tn. According to Credit Suisse, 170,000 Indians, out of a population of 1.2bn, are worth between $1m and $50m. According to the Forbes India Rich List 2011, the country has 57 billionaires whose combined wealth is $241bn. Beyond the ultra-rich there are an estimated 62,000 households worth more than £3m. The number is expected to more than treble in the next five years.
Meanwhile, during today’s practice, racing was temporarily halted after a stray dog ran across the track. McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton set the fastest time during the session, followed by Sebastian Vettel and his Red Bull teammate, Mark Webber. A power cut at the press conference being addressed by the Brazilian Ferrari driver, Felippe Massa, the fastest on track yesterday, was quite a let down.
F1 supremo, Bernie Ecclestone, downplayed these incidents stating, These things are quite normal. These things happen and it's not a big issue. Better if we don't have dogs at all.
The event is being funded without any government backing, unusual for a debut Grand Prix. Jaypee, controlled by billionaire founder Jaiprakash Gaur, spent $450 million to build a track and $200 million in royalties over five years. The company has priced tickets at an average $200 in a nation where the World Bank estimates 800 million people live on less than $2 a day.