Mallya: Force Indias real focus is on 2009 15 Jul 2008
Next season will see the introduction of several key changes to the Formula One regulations. Many expect these adjustments could bring about a shift in the standings, and Force India are amongst those hoping to capitalise on any upset to the balance of power. Here team boss Vijay Mallya evaluates the squads season so far and explains why hes already looking ahead to 2009
Q: How would you review the Silverstone weekend, now one week after its conclusion?
Vijay Mallya: There are so many variables in F1, given the competitive nature of the sport, that sometimes you get one thing right and two things wrong. That's what makes it so exciting, but makes it equally frustrating. I can't help but think about the fact that Rubens Barrichello was a couple of tenths away from Adrian (Sutil) in qualifying for the British Grand Prix, and when Adrian was running, he was in 11th and Barrichello was 10th. As we know, Rubens finished on the podium after a great race, so maybe we could have done things better. So this race was really an opportunity missed. Hopefully we'll not make the same mistake again.
Q: Was it encouraging to see the improved pace of the cars in the dry?
VM: At the start of the season in Melbourne we were right up there, and competing with Honda and Williams and Toro Rosso. We achieved a 12th place, an 11th place, a 10th place finish, and we were running fourth in Monaco. Then suddenly everything has gone a bit flat, and the gap increased, so clearly the others made more progress than we did. Then we introduced the Silverstone package, which has given us a catch up, so we are back to where we were. Now we have some more small modifications coming for Hockenheim, which we've tested this week. We're also the only team that doesn't have a seamless shift gearbox, and that's a couple of tenths anyway you look at it. When we have that, that is where we need to really push. That's all the significant modifications we have left for this year, because if I keep on hammering the team to produce better results this season, I'll compromise 2009, which is a huge opportunity. Trust me, I'm putting my heart, soul, money and a lot more into 2009, and I intend to be right there!
Q: In Silverstone, as in other races, you had many VIP guests. Is this a mark of the team's increased presence, or a simple fact of being the home race and having more interest in this event?
VM: India and England have such a close relationship, that London is almost a second home to Indians. So compared to any other race, for all our sponsors and VIP guests coming to England is something very special. We had so many of our friends and our guests there, and we loved having them. Obviously they were a little bit disappointed with the race, like I was! But coming to England is something special for us.
Q: Sachin Tendulkar was a guest of the team in Magny-Cours and Silverstone. What does it mean to have support from an Indian legend?
VM: He's a fantastic guy, an outstanding cricketer, probably one of the finest that the world has ever seen or produced. He's a true Indian at heart, and loves to see the Indian flag.
Q: Cricket has always been the national sport now, has Formula One racing taken on the same status yet?
VM: The way we look at it, India never qualified for the Olympic hockey, and in football we didn't qualify for the World Cup. Here we have an Indian team that's actually racing in the World Championship. That itself is an honour, to fly the Indian standard at one of the top flight levels of the sport.
Q: Is there an expectation from India though to be on top of the game as the Indian cricket team is?
VM: Of course, we need to now show better and get better results, but it has only been six months since we took over, so what can you expect? Ferrari didn't win a World Championship for years until Michael Schumacher came along in 1996, and even then it took three or four years to win. So people can't expect miracles from me in one season, but I'm getting there, and I'm showing that I'm inching forward. The commitment is there, the determination is there. I'm a guy that enforces accountability everywhere, so I'll make sure we have the right answers, we don't make the same mistakes, and we capitalise on our opportunities. Our real focus is on 2009, and I'm absolutely determined that in 2009, we'll have some reason to be proud.