Readers on my blog have enjoyed the various i1 Super Series related posts including ‘Should Narain and Karun participate in the i1 Super Series ’ and the i1 Super Series podcast. Overall, there have been good vibes regarding the progress the series was making and motorsport fans in India (and the drivers!) were waiting in anticipation for the first round of the debut season of the series. As per the latest calendar that was approved by the FIA and shared by the organizers, 21st/22nd January 2012 was to be the first race weekend of the Indian Racing League. (Read post: i1 Super Series Calendar). This calendar was infact the second one that was publicized on the official website of the series. (Read post: i1 Super Series Debut Season Calendar Gone For A Toss)
However, there was an unexpected announcement made by the series organisers in an Indian daily which stated that the series would be postponed by ‘at least two months’ and that the first race weekend could well be moved to end-March or start of April 2012. The reason for the delay cited was elections that will be held in Uttar Pradesh (the state which houses the Buddh International Circuit) in the early months of 2012 and a government restriction to staging public event close to the dates of polling.
The BIC, which is India’s only Formula1 circuit, is critical to the plans of the series organisers and various team owners and its non-availability is the key reason behind postponement. For those newly following the motorsport developments in the country should know that the BIC is shut till March 2012 to undergo maintenance and repair work.
The delay could well work against the series in many ways including affecting investors, team owner and fan confidence in the series. More so, a shift to April could have larger effects on the viewership of the sport, both on-ground and on-air.
April will be when the summer heat picks up in North India and even if the drivers gear up for that challenge, I wonder how many fans would dare to bear the heat and step out to watch the action live from the stands.
The other issue with moving to April would be a direct competition with other TV sports properties like the Indian Premier League and of course Formula1. In its debut season, the series should stay away from competing with any other sports property and try and gather maximum eyeballs to build a strong follower and advertiser base. During the month of April, not just the TV viewers, but even the TV advertisers will go back to the tried-and-tested programs like the IPL and Formula1. There could be potential impact on TV revenues for the official broadcaster Ten Sports.
The other issue also that I forsee is with the availability of drivers. Most drivers were keen on the i1 Super Series because it was held ‘off-season’ (in motorsport, the winter months of November, December, January and sometimes even February are regarded as off-season months) and would not clash with their regular racing calendar. Indian racers like Aditya Patel and Armaan Ebrahim alongwith the International racers like Karun Chandhok, Vitantonio Liuzzi and even Neel Jani will surely prefer to move back to Europe and pursue their racing careers which are yet to conclude in Formula1.
This could possibly be the single-largest hurdle for the organisers of the i1 Super Series and one waits to see how they will tackle this. They could also find themselves in a slight dilemma with one important question that could arise sooner or later – should we postpone the inaugural season?
More thoughts to follow on this inadvertent delay of the i1 Super Series…