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Ecclestone insists Indian GP still on track UPDATE #4 India business magnate Ratan Tata says India is not ready for F1.  "I agree with Sports Minister Gill's view that Formula One is an elitist sport we can do without. Wherever they tried force feeding it to the public like in China and Turkey it flopped. We first need to develop a culture for motor racing and then look to bring Formula One," he says.

09/02/09 (GMM)  Bernie Ecclestone is not ready to draw a line through plans for an Indian grand prix, despite the country's government refusing to pay scheduled fees to his company.

Following a request by the 2011 race's organizers for more than $35m in funding to be paid to Formula One Management, the Indian sports minister turned it down on the basis that F1 is not a sport but "entertainment".

"Everybody is entitled to their views.  That's the good or the bad part of democracy," F1 chief executive Ecclestone, 78, is quoted as saying by domestic media on Wednesday.

The Briton said the promotion contract for the F1 race, with construction on a new circuit already underway, remains in place.

"(The race has) been on for a long time.  There's never been any doubt," Ecclestone in London told the Indian news agency PTI.

"The contract has been signed a long time back."

He said he will be on site when the circuit's foundation stone is laid in October.

08/31/09 Sports Minister Gill again has snubbed Mallya, insisting that it was technology and not any sporting skill that determines the outcome of Formula One races.

"I congratulate them for their efforts but our view has been known for the past many many months. Formula One is the most expensive entertainment even in the west," Gill said.

"The technology they use is far beyond anything here. So, our view is clear that we are focused on promoting sports and that's how it should be. The rest, it's a free country, what they want to do here is their business," he added. 

08/31/09 (GMM)  Despite the uncooperativeness of the Indian sports ministry, Vijay Mallya is sure plans for a grand prix in the country remain on track.

Following a request for funding by the organizers of a 2011 round of the world championship, the government department ruled that formula one is in fact not a sport.

In the wake of his team Force India's maiden pole and podium at Spa-Francorchamps, team owner and billionaire Mallya issued a rebuke.

"When hundreds of millions of people worldwide follow it as a sport, what makes them believe otherwise?" he is quoted as saying from Belgium by the Indian news agency PTI.

But Mallya remains confident that the government's position is not a terminal spanner in the works for an Indian grand prix.

"We are definitely going to host the event," he said.  "The organizers have acquired the land and have started building the track."

As for the government's hesitance, Mallya added: "Look, this is a substantial amount of money to be transacted out of the country and the ministry officials naturally have some concerns.

"Maybe the promoters need to meet them again and explain it in (more) detail."

08/25/09 It's a letter which is likely to create a huge debate in sports circles and rattle the motorsports fraternity.

According to sources, the India ministry of sports in January 2009 wrote to JPSK Sports, the promoters of Formula One in the country, that their request for getting approval for remittance of $36.5 million (about Rs 177 crore) to be paid to Formula One Administration (UK) for holding an F1 race in India had been rejected on the grounds that "it (the race) would have no impact on the development of sports in the country".

JPSK had first gone to the Reserve Bank of India, which asked them to get the ministry's approval. The basic premise of the ministry is that F1 is not needed in India and the money can be spent on development of disciplines which have a wider base in the country, ministry sources said.

"F1 is not purely sports. It is entertainment and this venture by JKSP is a commercial initiative," said a ministry source. In fact, the letter states that F1 will not have an impact on Indian sports "in terms of either participation, broad-basing or promotion of excellence". zzzz

"The proposed F1 race does not satisfy conditions which focus on human endeavor for excelling in competition with others, keeping in view the whole sports movement from Olympics downwards," said the source.

Sameer Gaur, MD, JPSK confirmed to The Times of India that their request had been rejected by the sports ministry.

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