Exclusive Q&A with Force Indias Vijay Mallya 28 May 2013
Force India left Monaco with a haul of 12 points, equalling their best result of the year, as the team continue to enjoy their strongest ever start to a world championship campaign. And that was despite one car starting 17th on the grid.
With the VJM06 proving competitive on all types of circuit, and both their drivers seemingly at the top of their games, its no surprise team principal and managing director Vijay Mallya is upbeat on their prospects for the remainder of 2013 - and beyond
Q: Vijay, three teams managed to get both of their cars into the points in Monaco: Mercedes, Red Bull Racing and Force India. How do you feel about that?
Vijay Mallya: I feel absolutely delighted. The fact that weve finished in front of Ferrari, McLaren and Lotus is indeed a memorable afternoon. (laughs)
Q: Force India are probably not frontrunners yet, but arguably a cut above the typical midfield squad. Where do you see your team in the pecking order?
VM: We are fifth in the championship standings in terms of points. We are a small team and we are very much punching above our weight. This is the commitment and dedication that we have. It is a fact that with every year we get better. Forty-four points from six races - that is the best start into the season in the history of the team. One cant ask for more. We will keep up our development speed and we will keep on improving the car to get even more competitive. Hopefully we will be lucky enough to have a few podiums - at least thats the plan for 2013. Next year with the new engine and our new Mercedes partnership we hopefully will run even higher.
Q: How satisfied are you with your two drivers?
VM: Very satisfied. Both of them drove brilliantly. We are where we are today despite the fact that Adrian (Sutil) has been very unlucky in three of the six races and sometimes weve had only one car in the points. Had we had a little better luck we always would have had both cars in the points and would have been higher up in the standings. But thats racing and we accept that there is some degree of uncertainty that goes with the sport. But all in all our results are there for everybody to see. From the time I have taken over this team we are getting better every year.
Q: What was your feeling before the start of the race? Monaco is one of Adrians favourite tracks - he has always done well here - but he has also been very unlucky there, like the race when he was a sure-fire fourth until Kimi Raikkonen took him out
VM: Yes, Adrian loves that track and we knew that if he would finish it would be a great result. He did some great manoeuvres at the hairpin - one to overtake (Fernando) Alonso and one to overtake (Jenson) Button. He tried that on the first lap and damaged his front wing, which of course wore on our nerves, but he then pulled it off brilliantly. He simply drove brilliantly. I am obviously a very happy man. (laughs)
Q: Your second man Paul di Resta didnt progress beyond Q1 on Saturday, but still made it into the points despite having to start from P17
VM: That shows how competitive our car is. Paul is a great driver and he should never have qualified 17th and got stuck in Q1 - this was clearly a mistake by us on the pit wall where we did not give him a fresh set of tyres - so starting from where he had to was clearly unrepresentative as far as I am concerned. But from that position, finishing ninth is brilliant.
Q: Why is the VJM06 so competitive?
VM: Because we get better with every year. We review our performance and implement higher and higher standards - the team works towards that and we achieve it. We deliver on the objectives that we set ourselves.
Q: Now that Force India have such good momentum under the current regulations, how difficult will 2014 be?
VM: 2014 will be a new challenge for everybody because it is a brand new engine. We have a new partnership with Mercedes for the entire powertrain, so as much as it challenging and to a little degree uncertain, we are quite confident that we will put together a good package.
Q: How important is delivering a good result this season to making the 2014 transition smoother?
VM: I think we have demonstrated to everybody - even to our worst critics - that we are capable of competing with the big boys and that we are capable of improving every year. And that is what matters.
Q: Is there any concern about the financial situation in 2014? Toro Rossos Franz Tost estimates that the powertrain will cost double what it is now
VM: Well, I fear that is for sure. On one hand the FIA and FOTA - when it existed in full strength - had resolved that we need to reduce the costs of Formula One. But rather than reducing costs, one or two teams have decided winning at any cost is more important than the sustainability of the sport, so there is no resource restriction that is implemented, quite contrary to the fact that costs are going up. Whether it is the commercial rights holder, the FIA, or the teams themselves, I think it is very necessary that all the important stakeholders sit across the table and find a viable solution. If you only want three or four teams in Formula One running three cars each you should proceed in the way it is now. But I think Formula One also needs the smaller independent teams as well, so everybody must also look at the common interests - not only the individual interests.
Q: So many fingers were crossed in Monaco on Sunday for Force India - to see a small team taking on the big boys
VM: I so much appreciated all the congratulations and the support that we got from our fans. I hope we gave back with the good start into the season and let me tell them, I plan to continue in that way!
Q: Doing well in Monaco is always that extra bit satisfying - and brings that extra bit of publicity
VM: Ha, Monaco is my favourite race of the season. Probably its many peoples favourite race. It is very unique: the glamour, the atmosphere, and the track itself. There is something so legendary about the Monaco Grand Prix for any team - including Sahara Force India - so if we do well on this track we feel extra proud.
Q: Sunday was a memorable day for Force India. When will the next memorable occasion come? A podium finish?
VM: Last year I would say that we were unlucky not to get at least a podium, but now I feel that it is very much within sight. We finish fourth or fifth - and thats close enough to be optimistic. We remain optimistic and as it is still a long way to go in the season hopefully we will get that podium. Of course it would be nice to have it sooner rather than later as weve been patient enough! (laughs)
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