Bernie Ecclestone may have gone on record that he is very close to arranging a deal to bring Formula One to India, but is it possible to see the first F1 race in the country by 2010? For that, the enormity of what F1 is all about has to sink in.
Possessing a world-class racing circuit does not qualify a country to host a grand prix event of this magnitude. Because it is the other infrastructure and logistics support that is critical.
For starters, you need a world-class airport, plenty of hotel rooms, communication facilities, roads that access the circuit to the closest city and high-tech medical facilities and hospitals.
Each F1 team transports on an average 30 tonnes of equipment comprising 10,000 parts, from laptops and walkie-talkies right down to paper napkins with the team logo on it.
And there are at least 100 employees in the team who have to travel with the equipment.
Besides this, there are the F1 cars. Teams typically take three cars with them and with a few engines too.
Then you need at least a 747 or a medium-sized aircraft to transport all this. Of course, F1 drivers are usually highly paid and can afford their own aircraft, too.
The airport should be able to handle these arrivals and all the cargo. Transport to the circuit requires specially equipped trucks and other vehicles. Teams need cars on hire, decent accommodation and communication tools as well.
Remember, all this is for just one team. In the 2006 season, there were 11 teams, and it is safe to assume that it will be the same in 2010 too.
Then there are the fans -- not just the domestic variety but the international grand prix aficionados, too. Which means their own requirements in terms of accommodation, communication and transport.
Creating a fresh world-class F1 circuit can cost anything between Rs 800 crore and Rs 1,500 crore.
The circuit's location is critical. It has to be close to a major city for all the above reasons.
So, is India equipped to handle something that is as complex as a full-scale military operation? 2010 is a little too close to comfort, but one way to beat it is to hold a race within the city.
The Monte Carlo circuit is one unique example, and parts of the Gilles Villeneuve circuit in Canada and the Albert Park track in Australia use public roads.
Cities like Kolkata and Hyderabad are clearly not in the race. While West Bengal Industries Minister Nirupam Sen says the proposal submitted by a UK-based non-resident Indian has died a natural death, one of the first announcements made by the Congress government in Andhra Pradesh was that the project has been shelved.
The one city that can have a F1 circuit is New Delhi. If it gets a spanking new airport, more hotels, permissions from the security forces and all the added paraphernalia by 2010, then the New Delhi race of the 2010 F1 season will be a treat.And the man who probably holds the key is Vijay Mallya, who counts Ecclestone as one of his acquaintances.