Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone on Thursday gave a thumbs up to the preparations for the inaugural Indian Grand Prix on October 30 but said that the organisers need to put in an extra effort to generate interest in the race in the cricket-crazy nation.
Ecclestone, the Formula One Group CEO, was speaking on the occasion of an announcement to mark telecom giant Bharti Airtel's association with the race as its title sponsors.
"F1 is new to India. It would take efforts to generate interest. We will never catch cricket but we can get close to...perhpas with extra effort," Ecclestone said after unveiling the logo of the race.
Ecclestone, the 82-year-old British sports entrepreneur, was pleased with the pace of work at the Buddh International Circuit, the venue for the race.
"It will be one of the nicest circuit and will complete in time. People are there, checking everything on daily basis. It will be in good shape," he said.
Asked whether F1 needs India or India needs F1, Ecclestone replied, "India is one of the top 5 countries, it's a major part of the world and we wanted a championship here. When I came here, I was pleased (with what I saw). Things will be fine. In the end we will do good things for India."
He also said that 30 per cent of the total spectators will come from abroad, especially Europe.
Sanjay Kapoor, CEO - India and South Asia, Bharti Airtel, said there was a lot of merit in having an association with the world's most popular motorsport event.
"Such events do not come cheap. We see value in this in investment. We met five-six months back and meeting of the minds happened at first time. F1 is a sport and Airtel is a brand. Both resonate well in the contemporary markets," he said.
He did not give a direct answer when asked if association with F1 was the reason behind their decision to pull out as sponsors of the Champions League Twenty20 tournament.
"You take decision keeping in mind the brand. We keep balancing the portfolios," Kapoor said.