GREATER NOIDA, India (Reuters) - The dog days are over and the dust has also settled for the Indian Formula One Grand Prix on its second appearance on the Formula One calendar.
Last year’s inaugural race at the Buddh International Circuit (BIC) was dogged by feral hounds on the dusty track during practice and teething problems in a paddock that was far from finished.
The race weekend was a success nonetheless, with 94,000 fans turning up, and organizers are confident this year’s will consolidate their efforts.
There is more landscaping, an unfinished ‘Stairway to Heaven’ has now been completed and enclosed and Formula One chief Bernie Ecclestone gave the event a definite thumbs-up when he arrived.
“Superb. Big, big improvement in everything. Fantastic,” the sport’s most powerful man told reporters.
National motorsports federation chief Vicky Chandhok, father of Indian racing driver Karun, looked a relieved man.
“I took Charlie Whiting, FIA race director, around the circuit for an inspection. Normally he’ll do three hours of inspection but he took one lap and said ‘perfect’,” Chandhok told reporters.
”He said the run-off area is so smooth that he could play golf on it, it’s that good.
“Formula One Management are so pleased that they won’t be surprised if once again it’s (adjudged) one of the best organized Grands Prix in the world. It has been a huge improvement from last year,” Chandhok added.
There has so far been no repeat of last year’s canine interruption.
”Every single intervention post has a gate now. We learnt from mistakes. It was very well controlled by the volunteers last year. There was no panic, it did not cause any accident.
“Everything is flowing now and everyone praised the circuit. Show me one driver among the 24 who doesn’t love the track,” Chandhok added.
Last year’s winner Sebastian Vettel agreed.
“I loved the track layout last year, but not just because I won the race,” the Red Bull driver said.
“With an average speed of 235 km/h, the course is the second quickest of the year after Monza. There is a lot of elevation change around the lap which adds to the fun... it’s like a roller coaster,” said the German, eyeing his fourth straight victory.
“It really has emerged as one of the most challenging circuits on the calendar for the drivers.”
Local driver Narain Karthikeyan, who races for tail-enders HRT, was also optimistic of the race’s success.
”We’re coming off a hugely successful race last year, so expectations are high and I hope on Sunday we see a big crowd, a strong one,“ said the HRT driver who would be racing in his second home GP,” he said.
“What I always say, in India there is a lot of passion for Formula One and comparative to our neighboring countries, like China, the understanding of Formula One is a lot better. It’s going to be a good grand prix, I hope.”
Editing by Alan Baldwin/John O'Brien