The Buddh International Circuit (BIC) has been closed until further notice due to pending land dues. It is the one and only Formula One race circuit in the country.
Owned by Jaypee group, the Buddh International Circuit which became the venue for the very first Formula One Indian Grand Prix has been closed by local authorities over pending land dues. To recover the dues, officials of the Yamuna Expressway Industrial Development Authority (YEIDA) intends to issue a global tender to auction the international race circuit. Apparently, Jaypee Infratech Limited has dues accounting to around Rs 600 crore.
BIC was already burdened with a lot of problems. The issues started when the UP government levied an exorbitant tax amount on JPSK (now Jaypee Sports International Limited) claiming that Formula One cannot be considered as a sport, but only as an entertainment event. As per the concerned officials, hosting Formula One in the country ‘will not aid any development in the field of Indian sports’.
The rather ridiculous claim eventually led to the removal of Indian GP from the F1 calendar in 2014. However, BIC had hosted multiple racing events, media events and popular championships such as Prima Truck Racing, JK Tyre FMSCI, INRC, SAE Supra, etc.; over the years.
In the minds of Indian automotive enthusiasts (especially F1 fanatics), the 2,500-acre sports facility beside Yamuna Express Highway in Greater Noida holds a special place. It was in October 2011 when the 5.14km long racetrack hosted the first instalment of the Indian GP, with Bernie Ecclestone as the then F1 boss. The layout was designed by none other than Hermann Tilke who is also behind iconic tracks such as Yas Marina, Sochi, Marina Bay, Circuit of the Americas and more.
The 2011 Indian GP was indeed a big event and to an extent, a relatively unknown yet interesting sport for many. Needless to say, it received immense international recognition due to the overwhelming number of visitors and the exceptional quality of the track. In fact, six-time World Champion Lewis Hamilton (then part of McLaren) compared BIC with the legendary Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps which hosts the Belgian GP.
There were only three instalments of the Indian GP; all of which were won by Sebastian Vettel for Red Bull Racing. In the three years, the circuit saw many legends including Michael Schumacher racing their good old roaring V8 machines. Legends and ‘G.O.A.T.S’ of the sport were also present outside the grid and one of them, Nikki Lauda, had expressed his hopes for another Indian GP. The Austrian three-time World Champion passed away at the age of 70 in May 2019.
The Indian Grand Prix might never make a return. Despite its remote location and relatively lesser popularity, BIC is easily one of the best circuits in the world; in terms of both circuit technicality and audience. With the YEIDA putting the facility under auction, one can only hope that it would be managed by an individual or an organisation who loves the sport.