Brushing aside government's stand that Formula One is not a sport, F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone today said the foundation stone of the race track in India would be laid in October for the showpiece event in 2011.
Ecclestone said it's been long time that they have signed the contract with the promoters in India and there was no question of the event being shelved despite the Indian government's refusal to give concessions.
Asked specifically whether the F1 race in India would goon, Ecclestone said from London," It's been on for a longtime. There's never been any doubt. The contract has been signed long time back."
Ecclestone, the President and CEO of Formula One Management, said that the foundation stone for the project inGreater Noida would be laid at the end of October.
"We are waiting for the circuit to be constructed. The foundation stone would be laid in late October. I will be in India to lay the foundation stone," he said.
Ecclestone made light of sports minister M S Gill's view that Formula One was not a sport. "Everybody is entitled to their views. That's the good or the bad part of democracy. If the Sports Minister doesn't think it's a sport, I can't do much about it. That's his view.The rest of the world thinks it is a sport," Ecclestone said.
Motorsports administrators in the country have reacted sharply to the Sports Minister's views against Formula One with Force India co-owner Vijay Mallya questioning the basis of Gill's assessment for F1 being "expensive entertainment".
Gill had insisted that it was technology and not any sporting skill that determines the outcome of Formula One races. The 2011 Indian Grand Prix has run into rough weather after the Sports Ministry denied JPSK Sports, promoter of the event in India, approval to the remittance of USD 36.5 million to Formula One Administration in UK.
Adamant Sports Ministry officials maintain Formula One does not have the social relevance of an Olympic sport and have refused to give their nod to the transaction, which comes under the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA) because it's not desirable.
On how he planned to make F1 popular in India, Ecclestone said he would try to meet people and see how it can be done when he visits the country in October.
"Let's see, when I come there in October. I would meet with people and see what is the best way to move forward,"Ecclestone said.
Ecclestone, a former Formula One driver himself, was impressed with Force India's second-place finish at the Belgian Grand Prix last week.
"Force India should have won actually. They were unlucky.It's good to see Vijay's (Mallya) team doing well. He has done a good job for Force India," he said.
Asked if there were plans to have more night races, the first of which made its debut in Singapore last year, Ecclestone said a few more venues were being considered.
"We are looking at five other countries for night races,"he said, without divulging the names of the countries.
On whether the sports was feeling the effects of global economic downturn, Ecclestone said things were looking up now after a few months of sponsorship problems.
"I don't know about India but most of the world is in recession. Sponsorship was obviously a problem as a lot of big names were reconsidering but it is better now and sponsors are coming back," he said.