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GP Week : Issue 139
F1 FEATURE >> freight through customs, and ensuring the smooth running of a global event. In the case of the Indian Grand Prix, however, administrative details have been a series of administrative headaches. The visas have been the most visible problem, with some teams and drivers having their initial applications refused. While Nico Rosberg and the HRT team have since resolved their visa problems, not everyone has been so lucky. A significant number of the travelling press corps has been refused visas, while this reporter was informed that their three- day visa application would be ready for collection shortly after the Indian Grand Prix weekend drew to a close, nearly two weeks after the application was first submitted. Speaking to The Times of India after September’s Italian Grand Prix, where Indian visa struggles were a hot topic of paddock conversation, the FIA’s F1 Head of Communications, Matteo Bonciani, admitted that the long waits for F1 visas were a matter of concern. “If the government takes three weeks to process a visa application, almost 90 percent of F1 people – me included – won’t attend the race,” Bonciani said. While the visa issues have earned miles of column inches in recent months, the more complex issue facing F1 attendees is the problem of Indian taxation. There have been a number of different tax rows surrounding the Indian Grand Prix, and not all of them will have been resolved when the circus touches down in Delhi this week. The first issue to raise its ugly head was that of additional customs taxes on F1 freight. Where the central government was able to organise customs-exempt bonds for specialised equipment entering the country for last year’s Commonwealth Games, Formula One’s tonnes of freight have been subject to additional taxes. That row was only resolved when the race organisers took it upon themselves to pay the additional taxes on behalf of the teams and FOM. The tax issue that has been more widely publicised and has yet to be resolved concentrates on the earnings of teams and drivers during the week that they will spend in India. Teams have been informed that they and their drivers – but not the associated support staff or media – will be required to pay up to 70 percent income tax on 1/19th of their annual earnings, calculated as the monies earned during their trip to India. It is highly unusual for countries to make income tax demands on non-residents, especially when those affected will be spending less than a week in the country in question. The ongoing tax rows are just more proof that one of the biggest hurdles the Indian Grand Prix organisers still need to overcome is the overwhelming lack of support from the central government. Speaking to The Times of India in mid- September, Chairman of the Central Board of Excise and Customs S D Majumder shocked the world of motorsport when he told the newspaper that the Indian Grand Prix was “not an event of national importance”. Such attitudes are incredibly short- sighted. While Formula One’s popularity in India may be limited when compared to national heavy-hitters like cricket or the Bollywood film industry, hosting a grand prix is an opportunity to present your country to a new demographic on an internationally televised stage. Only the Olympics and the World Cup can compare in terms of viewing figures. But Vicky Chandhok, who has long been one of the driving forces behind the Indian race, is au fait with the potential to be found in the logistical nightmare he signed up for. Writing in The Hindu over the weekend, the president of the Federation of Motor Sports Clubs of India said: “Eighteen other countries globally cope with the various ‘pressures’ of bringing an event of this scale to their shores and this is the opportunity for us to step up and deliver on our dream of being not a developing, but a developed nation! It’s not just the stakeholders of the sport but the Government that need to exploit this global platform to promote India. With a global audience of 527 million viewers in 2010, 16,000 hours of coverage in 187 countries, I don’t think anybody can argue with the brand equity that is Formula One.” You need only look to the Singapore Grand Prix to see all that can be achieved if a race is run with governmental support. Formula One’s night race has fast become one of the calendar’s most popular fixtures for a host of reasons: the facilities – for fans, teams, and media alike – are all top-drawer; logistical and organisational problems are non-existent; and transport and accommodation are some of the easiest on the calendar. There are several models for a new grand prix to follow. While Singapore is a great success story, a number of other races have risen and fallen over the years, thanks in no small part to mismanagement on the behalf of local authorities. The Indian Grand Prix is at a crossroads, and next weekend will determine whether it enters the F1 history books as a Singapore-style jewel in the crown, or yet another Turkey.