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Force India celebrate in style in Mumbai 08 Feb 2008

(L-R) Shamita Shetty (IND), Vijay Mallya (IND) Force India F1 Team Owner and Shilpa Shetty (IND) Indian film actress and model. Force India F1 Team Livery Launch. 6-7 February 2008. Mumbai, India. World © Moy/Sutton The launch ceremony. Force India F1 Team Launch, Mumbai, India, Thursday 7 February 2008. World © Sutton (L to R): Giancarlo Fisichella (ITA) Force India F1, Vijay Mallya (IND), Force India F1, Adrian Sutil (GER) Force India F1, Vitantonio Liuzzi (ITA) Force India F1 and Dr Colin Kolles (GER) Force India F1 Team Manager. Force India F1 Team Launch, Mumbai, India, Thursday 7 February 2008. World © Sutton Crowd at the launch. Force India F1 Team Launch, Mumbai, India, Thursday 7 February 2008. World © Sutton 
(L to R): Jan Mol (NED), Michiel Mol (NED) and Dr Colin Kolles (GER) Force India F1 Team Manager. Force India F1 Team Launch, Mumbai, India, Thursday 7 February 2008. World © Moy/Sutton

While the majority of teams have opted to shun glitzy launches this year in favour of more low-key affairs, the grid’s newest squad, Force India, decided to celebrate the start of their maiden season in style on Thursday in Mumbai.

With a historic monument as a backdrop and a sports-crazy nation embracing a new obsession as a crowd, the launch certainly had all the right ingredients to make an impression and the spectacular unveiling did not disappoint.

As the first Formula One car to hit the Indian subcontinent, the VJM01 - named in deference to co-owner Dr Vijay Mallya - deserved a suitably historic location for its official presentation. And the world famous Gateway of India proved to be the perfect setting.

A mammoth 26-metre high monument on Mumbai’s waterfront, the Gateway was traditionally the first thing visitors arriving by boat would see of Mumbai. Built with yellow basalt, it was a truly stunning backdrop for the launch.

Before the car - complete with new livery - was revealed, however, Mallya spoke to the assembled guests, keen to impress on them the significance of the event and reveal his hopes for the former Spyker squad’s future.

“It is the first time that an Indian ASN has been granted a license to drive in F1,” Mallya explained. “The Force India Formula One Team is one of only eleven elite teams guaranteed an entry into the FIA Formula One Championship Races. And this is a moment that fills me with huge pride.”

“I am sure that Force India will make a steady progress to our stated dream of seeing one of our drivers on the podium in 2010 at the first Indian Grand Prix.”

Celebrating with the billionaire at the event was a select band of India’s glitterati, including Bollywood stars Lara Dutta and Shilpa Shetty. Although absent from proceedings, Formula One Management CEO Bernie Ecclestone found time to send a note of support.

“Sorry I can’t be with you for your launch of Force India, which I know will be a successful team and is welcomed by everyone into Formula One,” the message read. “As you become a successful team you will make some enemies but I will always be your friend.”

Once the official launch was over, guests made their way to Mallya’s yacht, the Indian Empress, to continue celebrating into the early hours.