Vijay Mallya Q&A: The best day of my F1 life 29 Aug 2009
When Force India's Giancarlo Fisichella secured pole position for the Belgian Grand Prix on Saturday it sent a shockwave through the paddock. It was also a dream come true for team boss Vijay Mallya. Hes always said he doesnt want to have to walk too far down the grid to find his cars, and on Sunday hell barely have to walk at all
Q: Vijay, did you expect anything like today this season?
Vijay Mallya: Please let me take a couple of minutes. I bought the team at the end of 2007. In 2008 we raced the old Spyker chassis. We made a few changes, but in fact there was not a lot that we could do. This team has unfortunately - for whatever reasons that I dont want to comment on - been at the back of the grid for the last few years. 2009 is in my mind the first year for the Force India Formula One team, because we designed and built that car ourselves - although we had to design and build this car in a very, very short period of time.
I think I made statements before the start of the season that we should be good midfield competitors and that we should score some points this year - that was what my objective was. I think that we have shown that we are strong midfield competitors, but the whole of Formula One has become so competitive that now only fractions of a second mean two or three places. Even then we had four top-ten finishes, which I think show that we are up there - in the midfield.
We introduced major upgrades in Valencia and I think it showed good results as we had a strong double finish - 10th and 12th - and I was very pleased about it. We had a new front and rear wing here for Spa, so we expected some better results because the car has excellent pace. But to be honest I was quite shocked when Giancarlo landed pole position, but given his performance in Q1 and Q2 and making it into Q3, that was fantastic to see! Adrian was very unlucky because I think he also could have made it into Q3, but that is what racing is all about.
Fisis pole was a crowning glory of all that and I am delighted for Fisi and the team. The moral boosting effect that this had is absolutely incredible - nothing could have been better. We have to go into the race tomorrow and put our heads down and finish the race, get both cars home and hopefully finish in the points. And if we are lucky enough and everything goes according to plan and there is a podium as well, that would be the bonus. I have every reason to be proud as this is the incredible achievement of all my young guys back at the factory, at the track and of course the drivers. I am proud to be the team principal.
Q: Vijay, the airline business is down and the leisure and alcohol business as well. How secure is the future of the team and does this result make it easier?
VM: Ive been asked this question for some odd reason. Ive been asked this question by many journalists today, about the financial security of the team. There must be a lot of wrong information around. Let me make a couple of things very clear. My core businesses - spirits and beer - are doing extremely well. They do not have any resemblance of recession or slowdown. On the contrary the growth rates are in excess of 20 percent, the financial results are spectacular and the stock prices are up and I have no reason to complain. The airline industry is under pressure, but not only in India. My finances do not depend on the airline and neither do Force Indias finances depend on the performance of any of my companies. Force India is securely funded and I am committed to stay here as everybody knows. The point is we are operating on a small budget compared to others and I am very conscious of where we spend our money and how we spend it, and I am particularly proud that on a small budget we are able to demonstrate excellent performance. Being on pole is something that will go down in the history books and I am extremely proud.
Q: Vijay, at the start of the season you took the risk to rely on a very young technical and management team. Are you proud that you took that decision and that they delivered?
VM: I have always liked to encourage youngsters and young talent. That has been my style of management in all my businesses. But that is not without deep thought and consideration. I truly believe that the people we have are capable of delivering - and they proved it to me today. So obviously my faith was well placed and not misplaced. I am sure they are capable of doing more and more as we go ahead. But yes, I had to make significant management changes in this team and the previous management did not deliver anywhere near the result that we experienced today.
Q: What sort of driver arrangements have you made, or are hoping to make, for 2010?
VM: It is too early now to talk about drivers for 2010. Normally these discussions will take place in October. So obviously this is something that we have to think about. We have to talk to the drivers themselves, obviously, but I think that the drivers are motivated and eager only because they see real progress. At the end of last season I was speaking with my drivers of building a competitive car and I think they now see the difference themselves.
Q: What was your first though when you saw that Giancarlo was on pole?
VM: Those last 30 seconds I was measuring my heartbeat. My heart was pumping faster than the revs of the car. When qualifying was over, but there were still cars out there who could have taken pole - those where the longest 30 seconds of my life.
Q: Was that the best day of your life in the paddock?
VM: This nobody can take away. To qualify on pole at a Grand Prix has to be the best day of my life in Formula One.