Aug.19 (GMM/ The value of Indian telcom Airtel’s three-year naming rights deal for the Indian grand prix is $8.5 million, according to the Times of India.

“The deal is … worth much less than Indian corporates pay for a slice of the cricket pie,” said the report.

Earlier this month, Airtel pulled its reported $40 million title sponsorship of the Champions League Twenty20 cricket tournament.

Bernie Ecclestone said on Thursday he is hopeful F1’s new Indian date can ultimately rival the country’s love of cricket.

“It will take efforts to generate interest. We will never catch cricket, but we can get close to it, perhaps with some extra effort,” said the F1 chief executive.

“India is a major part of the world and we wanted a race here.”

Airtel official Sanjay Kapoor would not confirm the brand switched from cricket to F1 because it is cheaper, but Ecclestone sounded very happy with his latest sponsor.

Although reports said the Airtel deal is for three years, the 80-year-old smiled when he said he has been “sloppy” in leaving the contract wide open.

Ecclestone told reporters he would like the deal to continue “forever, until we stop”.