FIA president comments on return of Indian Grand Prix

Ex-F1 driver Jean-Éric Vergne won the inaugural Hyderabad E-Prix last Saturday, whilst having also featured in the final Indian Grand Prix in 2013.

FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem is ‘pushing” for more high-profile motorsport events to take place in India, following the first international motorsport event since 2013 that took place last weekend.

Ben Sulayem was present last Saturday at the inaugural Hyderabad E-Prix, as India played host to the fourth round of the 2022/23 Formula E series.

Remarkably, it was the first event of its size to take place in India since the 2013 Indian Grand Prix, where Sebastian Vettel claimed his fourth consecutive Drivers’ Championship.

The winner of the inaugural Formula E race was actually ex-F1 driver Jean-Éric Vergne, who interestingly also raced at the Indian GP in 2013.

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Ben Sulayem spoke at the E-Prix about how “important India is”, with the 61-year-old highlighting that it’s something he discussed in his manifesto before he was elected as Jean Todt’s successor at the FIA.

“In my manifesto (ahead of his election in December 2021) I had mentioned how important India is. Not because I am here, not because I am the president,” Ben Sulayem said.

“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 (Indian governing body FMSCI) to make sure that we are doing the right thing.”

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With Formula E having ended a 10-year wait for an international motorsport event in India, the nation is suddenly getting another in just a few months.

MotoGP are set to race at the former host of the Indian GP – the Buddh International Circuit – towards the end of September, in what will be the series’ first time racing in the Asian country.

Ben Sulayem, though, has stressed that he doesn’t want events in India to simply be a one-off, with the FIA president wanting them to “stay and leave an impression”.

“It has been long (since India hosted big event) but it is something we welcome,” said Ben Sulayem.

“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.”

Whilst MotoGP is set to race at the former F1 circuit, Formula E raced at the Hyderabad Street Circuit, in what was a thrilling race.

Ben Sulayem believes street circuits could actually be the way forward for India to make hosting races “affordable”, with him also believing that venues like the one in Hyderabad “help build motorsport culture”.

“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,” he added.

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“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.”

Despite all of this, though, will F1 ever return to India?

“Of course it can comeback… The opportunity is there and I have to break these barriers to ensure it happens. The FIA is for all the members,” said Ben Sulayem.