JANUARY 4, 2006
Why Formula 1 needs Narain Karthikeyan
Formula 1 teams rarely make decisions based on economics or demographics. They decide on what will give them the most chance of winning. And thus Williams has decided that Alexander Wurz is a better bet as a third driver than Narain Karthikeyan. MF1 Racing has decided that Tiago Monteiro's sponsorship dollars are more important than those on offer from Karthikeyan. And so it looks as though Narain might end up with nothing in F1.
This would not be smart.
The sport needs to understand that there is more to success at least in terms of general promotion.
Formula 1 would be mad not to keep Karthikeyan in some role. India has a population of around 1,080m and the National Council for Applied Economic Research in New Delhi estimates that there are 56m people in households earning $4,400-$21,800 a year and that this group bought 60% of the new cars sold in India. More importantly, there are an estimated 220m people who can now afford some consumer items and aspire to more. By 2010 some estimate that the consumer classes will increase to around 500m people, which will be much larger than the population of the United States and bigger too than Europe. If current growth rates in India continue the economy will become the world's eighth trillion dollar economy by around 2010.
And demographically, India has more than 350m people under 14 years of age which means that consumption rates are likely to be sustained in the long term.
Thus, having Indian interest in F1 is a key element for the major international companies sponsoring the sport.
Karthikeyan may not the next Michael Schumacher but he is certainly a man who is worth having around.
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