Two-time Formula 1 champion Mika Hakkinen says it is a “shame” that the Indian Grand Prix is no longer on the F1 calendar, saying Asia’s third largest economy has “incredible potential.”
India hosted three grands prix between 2011-13 at Greater Noida’s Buddh International Circuit, before financial and bureaucratic issues forced the race out of the F1 map.
With circuit owner Jaypee Group's financial position worsening in recent years, the Indian GP is also unlikely to return in short-to-medium term.
Hakkinen, who retired exactly a decade before India’s first F1 race, hopes the South Asian country can host another grand prix “sooner or later.”
“It's a shame you guys don't have Formula One race anymore,” the Finn told Mumbai Mirror. “The country has such an incredible potential to build a market.
“So now I think it will come back sooner or later. They have to come back here.”
Hakkinen is currently in India for a series of events organised by whisky maker Johnnie Walker, for which he serves as an ambassador.
The Finn was due to drive a McLaren F1 car on the streets of Mumbai on his first visit to India in 2008, but the event had to be cancelled following the infamous 26/11 terrorist attacks.
"I landed in India a couple of days back and I have been enjoying a great time exploring Mumbai,” he told TOI about his latest experience in India. “ I am looking forward to visiting Delhi. One thing that is a bit troubling though is the traffic."
Expecting “great results” from McLaren
Hakkinen won both his titles with McLaren, one of the most successful squads in the history of Formula 1.
However, the British F1 team has been dragged down by engine partner Honda for the last few years, and hasn’t won a race since 2012.
Hakkinen feels Honda’s struggles are down to restrictions on testing in the sport, but expects McLaren to bounce back now that they’ve ditched their partnership with the Japanese manufacturer and joined forces with Renault.
“Honda has been making great engines for McLaren in the past,” he told Firstpost. “But back then, when Honda was with McLaren, they had unlimited testing for what they can do. They were testing the car every week on the race track, and in real action.
“Now the regulations that Formula 1 has, you are not allowed to test except at the start of the season. They are not testing the engines in real life. So the improvements that engine manufactures can make are very tiny during the season. So, if it (the season) starts in a wrong way, it’s difficult to change it.
“McLaren has been struggling because they have been having failures. But they still keep pushing all the time, and they started to get better and better results. Next year, they will have a different engine. I expect them to get great results.”