Time Indian GP got government support: Karthikeyan

New Delhi, July 31 (IANS) India's first Formula 1 driver Narain Karthikeyan has appealed to the government to support the organisers of Indian Grand Prix, which is "huge" for the image of any country.

"I have been racing all around the world for almost two decades but people started asking me about India only after we hosted the F1 race here," Karthikeyan told IANS from Mumbai Wednesday.

"In other Asian countries like Malaysia, people and their government are so proud of their F1 and hosting it is huge for any country," said Karthikeyan.

The former HRT and Jordan driver, who is currently competing in the Auto GP series, was reacting to F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone's confirmation Tuesday that the Indian Grand Prix will not be held next year and instead it will be staged in the first half of 2015.

The announcement came in the wake of speculation over the growing apprehension of the teams and drivers towards the Indian taxation policy forcing them to cough up a fair amount of their income and it is hurting them.

The Coimbatore-based driver said hosting an F1 round raises the country's global profile and India should back the event like many others countries do. Jaypee's Buddh International Circuit is only one of three privately-owned circuits on the 19-round calendar.

The 36-year-old believes the growth of motor sports in the country is linked to the fate of the Indian Grand Prix, which made its debut in 2011.

"The quality of domestic racing has improved a lot in the last two years. You have the likes of Toyota, Volkswagen, MRF investing heavily here. The youngsters are getting exposure by driving high-quality cars. If F1 goes away, I doubt if we can carry on with the same intensity," he said referring to series such as MRF 2000 where foreigners battle it out with the local talent. The championship has been a support race for the Indian Grand Prix.

On the problems faced by F1 teams when they come to India, Karthikeyan said: "From what I could gather so far is that they like the circuit, but have issues with tax and getting their equipment cleared by the customs. They want a hassle-free clearance when they land here.

"All I am saying is that the government doesn't have to support the event financially. Jaypee are doing all they can on that front. The authorities just need to follow what the other countries are doing."

Karthikeyan, however, was positive about the re-scheduling of the India round.

"The excitement is always more at the start of the season when the championship is in its early days, whereas by October sometimes the winner is already decided as it happened in 2011, Sebastian Vettel coming here having pocketed the title already."

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