Ministerial Spanner in Force India Celebrations

Throwing a spanner in Force India celebrations, Union Sports Minister MS Gill refused to budge from an earlier stance saying Formula One was not a sport but expensive entertainment.

“Our view on F1 not being a sport was taken months ago. This is the most expensive entertainment event in the west. The technology used for the same is far beyond anything here. We are focused in promoting other sports. What they want to do is their business; we are nowhere concerned with that,” said Gill.

The minister’s observation came a day after Force India – owned by liquor baron Vijay Mallya – driven by Italian Giancarlo Fisichella, secured its first points on the circuit finishing a sensational second behind Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen in the Belgian Grand Prix on Sunday.

Mallya, understandably miffed by the extreme pole position adopted by the sports ministry, said he was stunned by the view.

Questioning the basis behind the stance, Mallya said: “When hundreds of millions of people worldwide follow it as a sport, what makes them believe otherwise?”

“Formula One is the most watched sport in the world, of course outside Olympic Games and World Cup soccer. So it’s really unfair if someone says that Formula One is not a sport,” he quipped.

He iterated that the country would host the 2011 grand prix and informed that land for the purpose had already been acquired by the organizers, and the building of the track is underway.

He said that the sports ministry view may be tainted by concerns over the huge remittance the organizers would have to make to the Formula One Administration in the UK.

He said that may be it was for the event promoters to meet the sports ministry again and explain the details.

JPSK Sports, promoter of the event in India, must earn a ministry waiver to remit the nearly USD 36.5 million to the sports controlling body.

Digging in its tyres, the ministry is yet to approve the transaction for the high octane sport, which it says is not at par with Olympic events in terms of social relevance.

Also on the day, Mallya denied reports suggesting that Fisichella, hero of Force India’s first podium position on Sunday, would temporarily switch to Ferrari to fill in for Luca Badoer ahead of the Italian GP, the next race on the F1 calendar.

Badoer is currently driving Ferrari as a replacement for the injured Felipe Massa, incidentally the winner at the Belgian GP last year.

In the midst of the bittersweet reception at home, in India, Mallya and Fisichella, have expressed hopes of keeping the good times flowing for Force India at their next outing at Monza, Italy, on September 13.

The optimism in the Force India camp could not be showed the chequered flags, just yet, as Martin Brundle, one of the more respected F1 analysts, in his column on BBC said: “The Belgium Grand Prix isn’t so much of a shock when you look at the basic ingredients and where Force India has been heading of late.”

“I honestly believe that if Fisichella had been a little bit sharper on the re-start after the first-lap safety car, and hadn’t got caught by the power-boost Kers of the Ferrari up the hill, he would have waltzed off and won by several seconds,” Brundle added.

With almost two weeks to go for the green flag at Monza, images of the Tricolor finish at Spa-Francorchamps will long remain vivid in hearts – governed by the love for the sport and the nation.

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