Vijay Mallya Q&A: Force India out to build on strong foundations 06 Oct 2008
Its been almost a year since Indian billionaire Vijay Mallya bought Spyker. In that time the rebranded Force India team have experienced the ups and downs of competing in the worlds toughest - and most glamorous - motorsport category. Mallya reflects on the past year and reveals his hopes for the future
Q: Singapore was a difficult weekend for the team in many respects, but can you take some positives away from the race?
Vijay Mallya: I am a great optimist. In any situation there are positives and, even though you cannot gloss over problems, you really need to build on the good parts and make sure that the negatives are not repeated. Yes, we were off the pace in some sessions. Yes, we didn't get two cars to the finish, but as a team we functioned very well. Accidents can, and always will, happen but getting Fisi's (Giancarlo Fisichellas) car out again and then getting him to the finish, having run in third place, was an achievement. It was a tough weekend for everyone, but we all pulled together. That's the sign of a good team.
Q: What do you expect from the team in Japan?
VM: The same I expect every time we go racing - reliability, dedication, enthusiasm and passion. I understand it's difficult, but Formula One is so competitive now that you can't let your game slip for one second. Of course I'd like to see points and Q2, but let's be realistic.
Q: It's now almost exactly one year to the day that you finalised the purchase of the Spyker Formula One Team. Will this be a time for reflection?
VM: There are always times for reflection - the day I first came to the factory, the first time I saw Force India colours on the car, the first time I stepped into the garage as a team owner. Although these milestones always give us a chance to look back and think, we have to look forwards rather than backwards. We have strong foundations, but we need to build on them now. We always said this would be a tough year, but we've got to deliver now.
Q: How has the team been received back home in India?
VM: When I announced our intention to buy the team, the TV audience figures exploded and print media went wild. I've never seen so many headlines on Formula One in India! Normally cricket is the only sporting event that makes the front pages, but now it's also motorsport. I'm pleased to say that the interest has been sustained. More media than ever - and I'm not just talking smaller, specialised press, but also national newspapers with a circulation of millions - are covering F1 and are really behind the team. The general public too has embraced Force India. We're here, we're competing on a world class stage and we are holding our own - every Indian can be proud that we've done that.
Q: It's been a hectic time of the year for you personally, with international Kingfisher route launches, new products and a very busy Formula One schedule. Is it difficult to juggle all the commitments?
VM: I believe that if you have good management teams in place that the day to day matters take care of themselves. We have launched new routes and this obviously takes some input from my side, but I am quite happy with how I manage my time. I think it's important for me to be there as a figurehead as my team find it motivating, but I don't want to be there looking over everyone's shoulders all the time. I have to leave them to do what they do best and take decisions when I need too. I'm in charge at the end of the day, but I don't need to make my presence felt at all times.