Interview with Force Indias Dr Vijay Mallya 28 May 2008
Like any sport, Formula One racing is made up of euphoric highs and heartbreaking lows, and on Sunday in Monaco, Force India experienced both extremes within minutes. In the wet and wild conditions, driver Adrian Sutil had managed to make his way up to fourth place and looked set to enjoy a historic finish for the team when a collision with Ferraris Kimi Raikkonen relegated him to the sidelines.
Having had a few days to reflect on the incident, Force India CEO and co-owner Dr Vijay Mallya looks back on the teams memorable weekend in Monte Carlo and searches for a glimmer of hope amongst the wreckage
Q: You must have gone through every kind of emotion during the Monaco Grand Prix. Looking back, how do you feel about it now?
Vijay Mallya: We were obviously shattered. We were so looking forward to a spectacular result, which was not to be. It has however done two things, and we need to take away the positives. First that Adrian Sutil has a lot of ability and talent, and we're glad and proud to have him in our team. Some people started questioning my decision to keep him when he didn't finish a few races at the start of the season, but I think he has more than redeemed himself. Secondly I think our strategy and our whole team came together. The race strategy was right, the set-up was right, and to see a Force India car running fourth in Monaco was a great pleasure while it lasted. We were seven minutes from home. It was unfortunate, but I guess that's what racing is all about. I can't say that I'm not feeling sad, because I am, but we'll get over it, and we'll take away a lot of positives.
Q: It was already good when he made it to the points in eighth, so when he got up to fourth you must have been ecstatic.
VM: Absolutely! Our strategy was one stop, we filled ourselves up with fuel. I told both drivers to stay out of trouble on lap one. We have normally started very well and had incidents on the first lap, so I said stay right out of trouble, take your time, you're going to go for a one-stop strategy, bring both cars home. We knew that we were good in the wet, Adrian has demonstrated that before as well, and everything worked to perfection until that fateful moment!
Q: What went through your mind when Sutil had to retire?
VM: We were well clear of Raikkonen until the safety car came out, and then we knew that he was going to attack us, so we warned Adrian on the radio that you have Raikkonen right behind you on your tail. And of course we didn't want him to get pressured and do anything stupid, because if he wasn't fourth he would have still finished fifth and that in itself would have been a huge accomplishment. But you know what happened, Kimi just rear ended him. It wasn't as if it was an overtaking manoeuvre, something drastic must have happened, because you wouldn't expect a world champion to run into somebody. It was sad for us, that moment was a very emotional moment.
Q: Were you almost in tears when it happened?
VM: I was, and so were many of us actually! I've had quite a lot of SMS messages and phone calls from supporters in India, all of whom are I think highly emotional. But such things happen in racing, that's what I've been telling everyone. F1 wouldn't be F1 if it wasn't as unpredictable as it is.
Q: You hosted two big parties on the Indian Empress, and you had a memorable race. Overall was Monaco a great weekend for you personally, for the team and for Kingfisher?
VM: It was a great weekend for us, and what better than to have demonstrated the improvement in this team as we did.
Q: Canada is next, another race that often features rain and safety cars. Do you see it as another good opportunity to score points?
VM: We don't want to base our earning points on exceptional circumstances. The team's got to be good and competitive, and that's what we're driving for, and everyone's doing their best to make that happen. I just hope that some of these efforts get rewarded soon.