India will host its first ever Formula One grand prix this weekend but face seeing half-filled stands being broadcast across.
Tickets for the race have not sold out, prompting organisers to slash prices in an effort to fill the 120,000-capacity circuit.
On Monday, tickets were still available online in all but the cheapest category – the 2,500-rupee ($55) area.
The private Jaypee group, which has spent $400 million in building the new state-of-the-art Buddh International circuit and bring the event to India, said it was still hopeful of selling the remaining tickets for this weekend’s race.
“We have sold close to 80,000 tickets which is pretty encouraging considering that its the first F1 race ever in the country,” a Jaypee spokesman told AFP.
“Of course we would have been happier had we sold off 90 percent tickets because ticket sales are the only source of revenue for us. But there are still a few days to go and we are keeping our fingers crossed.”
The business conglomerate has also decided to offer discounted race day tickets in the hope of boosting sales.
“Fans can now opt for only race day tickets at discounted price instead of the season tickets which are a little on the high side. A lot of big companies are also in the process of booking corporate boxes,” said the spokesman.
Organisers have showcased engines and put an F1 car on display at various city hotspots, while Indian newspapers have been stoking the buzz, devoting full pages to explaining the technicalities of the sport.
Overall media coverage of the F1 championship — which has already been won by Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel — has been overshadowed by the on-going one-day cricket series between India and England, which the home side leads 4-0.
At 2,500 rupees, the cheapest ticket is also far beyond the reach of the vast majority of people in the country.
McLaren-Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton however said over the weekend that he had no doubt that the Indian race would be well-attended.
“We did a demo run in Bangalore and were expecting 5,000 people to turn up. On the day, there were around 40,000 fans. It was just incredible,” the Brit said.
“You can’t believe how many people are aware of Formula 1 and how many are looking forward to the race this week. There’s already a great deal of knowledge about the sport.
“I think it’s going to be a big deal.”