F1 teams eye Indian sponsorship pie

NEW DELHI Tue Nov 1, 2011 12:11pm IST

McLaren Formula One driver Jenson Button of Britain drives during the first Indian F1 Grand Prix at the Buddh International Circuit in Greater Noida on the outskirts of New Delhi October 30, 2011. REUTERS/Toru Hanai

McLaren Formula One driver Jenson Button of Britain drives during the first Indian F1 Grand Prix at the Buddh International Circuit in Greater Noida on the outskirts of New Delhi October 30, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Toru Hanai

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - The indifference shown by the majority of India's deep-pocketed corporates towards Formula One has baffled team bosses who expect them to warm to the sport following the success of last weekend's inaugural Indian Grand Prix.

The teams are mostly happy with Formula One's newest host and believe they have chanced upon a huge untapped market in one of the world's fastest growing economies.

"I think like everyone else we wanted to also attract Indian companies and it is surprising that there are not many, as yet, in Formula One, although from the financial potential they are very much capable of doing it," Sauber chief executive Monisha Kaltenborn said.

Indian-born Kaltenborn at least got local dairy brand Amul on board for Sunday's race.

"We did try hard and we succeeded in getting one of India's most known, prestigious owned brands with Amul.

"I think we will continue with that now. An event like this is the best platform, that's where we can present ourselves and show the companies here what Formula One is about," she said.

Toro Rosso team principal Franz Tost said teams could not afford to ignore "markets for the future" like India.

"...it is very important for Formula One that we are racing in India, that we go to these new markets that are interesting and important for the future, like India, like China, Russia, the Arabian area, South America.

"These are the markets for the future and this is important... to bring in more sponsors," he said.

That would require a change in perception among the cricket-biased corporates in the world's second most populous country.

"It has already changed, I think," claimed Force India owner Vijay Mallya, who also owns a cricket team in the popular Indian Premier League.

"Look at Sahara's investment in Force India. Look at the investment of (Indian Grand Prix title sponsor) Airtel.

"I think after the corporates actually saw a real, good race in India, the level of interest would grow because this is a spectacular sport and a huge global platform."

Indian business conglomerate Sahara group invested $100 million for a 42.5 percent stake in Force India last month.

(Editing by Patrick Johnston; To query or comment on this story email sportsfeedback@thomsonreuters.com)

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