FIA president Mohamed Ben Sulayem is hopeful for an Indian Grand Prix return as he is “pushing” for more high-profile motorsport events to take place in the country.
Last weekend’s Formula E race at Hyderabad was the first international motorsport event to take place in India since 2013.
Ben Sulayem was in attendance at the inaugural Hyderabad E-Prix which hosted the fourth round of the 2022/23 Formula E season.
The FIA president spoke at the event about how “important India is” as a market for international motorsports, highlighting that growing the sport in the region was one of his manifesto pledges ahead of his election in December 2021.
“In my manifesto, I had mentioned how important India is. Not because I am here, not because I am the president,” Ben Sulayem told Autocar India.
“India and China both have the manufacturers, both have the numbers. We have not scratched the surface yet. I mean it when I say this. We are talking about 2.8 billion people in these two countries and we have less than 8000 competitive licenses.
“We need to grow but how do we grow? There is no one size that fits all. India is different so we have to listen to people here. We have to empower ASN [National Sporting Authority – Indian Motorsport is represented by FMSCI] to make sure that we are doing the right thing”.
Formula E’s arrival in India marked the end of international motorsport’s absence from the country, but now the nation is seeing somewhat of a revival with another major event to take place in a few months.
MotoGP heads to the Buddh International Circuit – the former Indian GP host – at the end of September. This will be MotoGP’s first event in the country.
Ben Sulayem has stressed that he doesn’t want events in India to be a one-off. Instead, he wants them to “stay and leave an impression”.
“It has been long [since India hosted an international event] but it is something we welcome,” said the FIA president.
“We don’t want events to come just and go but we want it to come and stay and leave an impression.
“That is why planning for motorsport is very important because you don’t want investment which goes into the racing [to be wasted]. The infrastructure has to be utilised by the Indians.
“Also, you had Formula 1, you had F1 drivers – two in total – and now [Formula E]. But what does it show? It shows that sustaining it is the other challenge.”
F1 left India following a tax dispute with local governments in 2014 which postponed that year’s race which was deemed too expensive by organisers. An F1 return to India hinges on affordability, which Ben Sulayem believes is most likely found through street circuits, similar to that of Hyderabad’s Formula E venue.
“These are circuits we believe will help build motorsport culture, it will make the sport more appealing, more than appealing it will make it affordable.
“I am pushing for more events in India and affordable vehicles and we passed that already in the FIA general assembly. We have a new identity for karting and cross cars.”
On whether an F1 return to India is on the cards, the 61-year-old commented: “Of course it can come back… The opportunity is there and I have to break these barriers to ensure it happens. The FIA is for all the members.“
I thought promotion of venues was F1 and FIA Executive (Mohamed Ben Sulayem ) would stand back ?
As stated, and as usual, the previous problems were due to various government departments failing to cooperate or fix agreements.
More worrying is FIA promotion of new street circuits for F1 use. The safety standards, as seen at Miami are dreadful, and criticism not accepted. Like a return to 80s.
Buddh International was a good circuit, and I’d love to see it back on the calendar. Ben Sulayem is right to push for mthe sport to get into more countries. Endless American races debase the status of a world championship. One country, one race.