x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Indian GP interest strong

Early ticket sales for the Indian Grand Prix have organisers saying the event will sell out. Elsewhere, the three-week break is over and drivers and teams are descending on Spa-Francorchamps for the Belgian Grand Prix.

Though its circuit is still a work in progress, organisers for the inaugural Indian Grand Prix say ticket sales show great interest in the event.
Though its circuit is still a work in progress, organisers for the inaugural Indian Grand Prix say ticket sales show great interest in the event.

NEW DELHI // If the early response is anything to go by, the organisers of the Indian Grand Prix should have little to worry about over the turnout for the country's inaugural Formula One race on the outskirts of Delhi on October 30.

Tickets worth 12.5 million rupees (Dh1.005m) were bought in the first three hours of sales on Saturday, leaving Ashish Hemrajani, the head of race ticketing partner Bookmyshow.com, in no doubt that there will be a full house at the circuit.

"Honestly, we did expect such a response. After all, it's the first ever Formula One race in India and there was anticipation over when tickets would finally go on sale," Hemrajani told Reuters by phone.

"So far, we have sold tickets worth more than 50 million rupees. We knew the response would be good and we are very pleased. Outside cricket and cinema, you don't get such response. I think most of the tickets sold so far must have gone to people living in and around Delhi. We would be launching packages soon for the foreigners for their travel and stay."

Bernie Ecclestone, the Formula One supremo, last week gave the 5.14 kilometre circuit a resounding thumbs-up ahead of the September 1 race, and home drivers Narain Karthikeyan and Karun Chandhok are also impressed by the layout.

"The first time I went there was in April last year and saw a lot of mud and a few ponds," Chandhok told reporters at Saturday's ticket launch programme. The reserve driver, who replaced Lotus team mate Jarno Trulli in a one-off appearance in last month's German Grand Prix, added: "The undulation they created is very, very impressive ... it adds to the character of the circuit.

"I think we got two to three special corners with double the width to promote overtaking. This is the first circuit in the world with overtaking zones recommended by some drivers and Charlie Whiting [the FIA race director]."

Elsewhere, the drivers and teams have started their migration to Spa-Francorchamps for Sunday's Belgian Grand Prix.

A favourite of many on the circuit, this weekend's race in the Ardennes forest holds special meaning for Michael Schumacher.

"This is where I drove my first ever Formula One race 20 years ago," said Schumacher on the Formula One website. "A lot has changed in those 20 years, but one thing has not: the track is still sensational.

"To me, Spa remains my 'living room', because it has been the stage for so many things which have been remarkable for my sporting career."