Written by Andrew Lwanga, Edited by Vyas Ponnuri
Grand Prix racing returns to India for the first time in a decade, as MotoGP begins its Asian leg of the 2023 campaign. Not since Sebastian Vettel won in Formula 1 back in 2013 has a Grand Prix been hosted in India. This time it will be on two wheels, instead of four.
Situated in the state of Uttar Pradesh, the Buddh International Circuit is one of Herman Tilke's more beloved inventions. A 13 corner, 4.9 kilometre clockwise circuit in its FIM configuration, the racetrack possesses all the hallmarks of a great circuit. Long straights into hard braking zones allow for overtaking opportunities, and watch out for the Ducatis to show their prowess. Slow speed corners for the more nimble of motorcycles, as well as a few fast swooping ones.
This will be MotoGP's first visit to The Republic Of India, and it's not been without a few hurdles, with journalists and team staff reporting difficulties in securing VISAs. Going into the race weekend, reports suggested as much as 50% of MotoGP's staff was yet to attain a VISA, though that figure has been rapidly falling.
Back on the track, the championship battle is heating up. Jorge Martin recorded a double last time out in San Marino, winning both the Sprint race and Grand Prix. Bagnaia, who fought valiantly despite injuries, came home in third behind Bezzechi, the VR46 Racer also in the title hunt.
Going into the weekend, Bagnaia leads the field by 36 points. Come what may, the defending champion will still lead the championship. However, by how much? With eight Grands Prix still to go, and well over 200 points up for grabs, the title battle is well and truly on, and the window for a late title charge is still open for the three Ducatis still in the hunt.
With it being a new track on a different layout from what most have seen, it would be nigh on impossible to accurately predict what the weekend may bring. However, it would be unwise to discount Martin's recent form, the Spaniard emerging as an ever-present threat, and will head to India on the highs of a grand prix victory.
On the flipside, the wildcards that the Aprilia's could spring are a surprise. The Italian manufacturer brought home a one-two in Barcelona, and as they work to iron out their machine into a proper contender for years to come, they remain a threat in the present day.
Of course, coming to the Italian manufacturers, 2023 has largely belonged to Ducati, who are able to turn out a decent result on their toughest days. Bagnaia's prowess on the scarlet machine has been evident from the get go, and to not expect the man with the most wins in 2023 to not win, simply because it's a venture into the unknown in India's Buddh Circuit would be an insult to the reigning world champion.
The Indian Grand Prix will be a major milestone for India, a major milestone in the subcontinent’s journey to re-solidify itself in the world of motorsport. It will also be an important chapter in the storied 2023 season, which has seen its own twists and turns on and off the track. With clear title protagonists aiming to achieve the ultimate prize, this weekend will be India's turn to etch itself onto motorsport history.