Tepid atmosphere at Indian GP

Greater Noida, Oct 27 (IANS) The atmosphere at the one-lakh capacity Buddh International Circuit (BIC) at the Indian Grand Prix Sunday did not bode well for Formula 1's popularity in the country, especially at a time when there are doubts over the race's future.

The main grand stand, which can accommodate 20,000 people, was half full as the 22 cars completed their formation lap of the 5.14-km track.

Only a handful of people were seen sitting in the premium stands (north and south). The scenario was similar in other stands around the circuit.

The paddock, which has attracted celebrities in the first two editions, was rather quiet this time.

Top shooter Ronjan Sodhi, who was one of few big names present at the BIC, said he was not surprised at the lack of spectator interest.

"I am watching a F1 race live for the first time. I see there are not many people in the stands. Maybe it is down to interest. It is a very technical sport and tough to understand for normal audience," Sodhi told IANS while comparing the sport's appeal in Italy where he trains for more than six months in a year.

"I am forced to watch F1 in Italy. The following is massive there. People, whether at the circuit or in a pub, never miss the action. It is obviously part of the culture there," said the double trap shooter, who was there with fellow Olympian and champion boxer M.C. Mary Kom.

The F1 loyalists, however, could care less about the atmosphere.

"I am loving it. It is great to have F1 in India. I hope the race returns soon," said Karan Harsh, who was sitting in the star stand, referring to the possibility of the event being dropped next year.

An impressive 95,000 turned up for the first race in 2011 and the number dropped to 65,000 in the subsequent year.

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