ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

A+| A| A-

Speed, Money and Male Power

India should be ashamed of hosting a Formula 1 event but it is not surprising that it is taking place.


Speed, Money and Male Power

India should be ashamed of hosting a Formula 1 event but it is not surprising that it is taking place.

Vidyadhar Date writes:

hat with the stock market plunging, the rupee declining and the number of dollar billionaires contracting, the Indian elite has not had much to crow about recently. But it is eagerly looking forward to adding a new feather to its cap – the first Grand Prix Formula 1 race in the country. It will be held on 27 October on a newly created track in NOIDA in Uttar Pradesh. The Indian followers of car racing are quite unconcerned about the speed, money, male chauvinism, environmental degradation and many other negative features of Formula 1.

The financial implications of the event have not been understood by many. India will have to pay millions of dollars to the management of Formula 1 to host the event. Formula 1 circuits are hideously expensive to build. We do not know how much Jaypee Sports, the Indian firm which is organising the NOIDA event, has spent but it cost $150 million to build the Istanbul circuit and as much as $300 million to build the Shanghai track. If the Indian company is yet going ahead it is because there is money to be made in sale of advertising and TV broadcasting rights.

No political party has protested this ostentatious enterprise. Indeed, many politicians see Formula 1 as a glamorous event that would mark India’s arrival as a modern nation in the international arena. So in the past several chief ministers from different states at different times including Sushil Kumar Shinde in Maharashtra, Chandrababu Naidu in Andhra Pradesh, and Bhupinder Singh Hooda in Haryana have gone out to woo the Formula 1 bosses.

Formula 1 car racing has been involved in numerous scandals and has a strong anti-democratic character. Bernie Ecclestone, who runs Formula 1 as the head of a business enterprise that would make the Indian cricket board feel it knew nothing about money in sports, said in 2009 that he preferred totalitarian regimes to democracies and praised Adolf Hitler for his ability to get things done. Max Mosley of the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (the organising body which has surrendered all authority to Ecclestone’s business interests) is also an admirer of Hitler and was involved in a widely publicised Nazi style sex orgy in 2008.

The venue in NOIDA will have a capacity to seat 1,50,000 spectators. The whole exercise looks farcical as there is little public interest in car racing in India except for a few among the urban well-off. The international (not Indian) media reported that the NOIDA project had been resisted by villagers in the vicinity as it disrupted their lives. Children now have to trudge for several miles to reach school or have to take a long bus ride. People in the area lack adequate electricity or water. Some farmers have become rich with the sale of their land and have acquired cars but now without their land they do not know how to make a living. It is a cruel irony that the racing circuit in NOIDA is named Buddh International after Gautam Buddha whose philosophy is a complete negation of the blatant consumer culture of greed and speed that Formula 1 represents.

The motor car has been one of the main engines driving capitalism in the western world for the last several decades and speed is crucial to a competitive society. And what better way to display and assert the power and the alleged superiority of capitalism than through car racing? Sadly, car racing has become one of the most popular events on television and the eyeballs it commands make it crucial for the promotion of consumerism through advertising. Yet, few in car racing acknowledge that in this day of climate change, the world should be seeing less and not more of highspeed fuel-guzzling racing.

Formula 1 is steeped in male chauvinism and contempt for women. It has never sought to encourage women drivers. Ecclestone once said that women should be dressed in white “like all domestic appliances” and that they would never do well in Formula 1. The sexist and male chauvinist world of Formula 1 is portrayed in detail by Beverley Turner in The Pits: The Real World of Formula One (2005). She quotes David Coulthard, a former Formula 1 champion, as saying that women do not have the right attitude to become race drivers.

It is the pursuit of new markets for car racing as well as consumer markets and catching television eyeballs that is driving the cynical promotion of car racing in various countries where there is little interest in the event. India naturally figures high among the list of “new” markets for this “sport” of excess – of speed, money, and male power.




Economic & Political Weekly

october 15, 2011 vol xlvI no 42

Dear Reader,

To continue reading, become a subscriber.

Explore our attractive subscription offers.

Click here


To gain instant access to this article (download).

Pay INR 50.00

(Readers in India)

Pay $ 6.00

(Readers outside India)

Back to Top