Exclusive with Force Indias Vijay Mallya: We've silenced our critics 12 Sep 2009
Force Indias performance at Spas Belgian Grand Prix caught everybody by surprise, but many quickly shrugged it off as a one-off, helped by the peculiarities of the track. On Saturday at Monza, however, Force India showed their pace has longevity.
With only McLarens Lewis Hamilton faster, Adrian Sutil sits second on the grid for Sundays Italian Grand Prix, with team mate Vitantonio Liuzzi starting seventh. Dr Vijay Mallya, the flamboyant and very determined team owner, is understandably full of praise for his men. Seems the little guys are here to stay
Q: Vijay, after the Spa qualifying session you said that it was the best day for you in Formula One racing. Then came the race with the podium and the first points for Force India, and today both of your cars make it into Q3 with Adrian Sutil on the front row. So the good days are here to stay for you and the team
Vijay Mallya: Ive told everybody that we are trying very hard and making gradual improvements, and for sure I wanted to prove the point that Spa was not a lucky fluke. The performance of the car in practice, as well as in qualifying today, shows that Spa was a hard-earned and well-deserved result. It shows that the car has improved a lot and the fact that Tonio Liuzzi put the car in Q3 to start the race in seventh position, after not driving a Formula One car for almost two years, fully justifies my selection. I hope that all the critics of Force India are now completely silenced!
Q: In fact many had thought that Spa was a one-off, but today you have proved that the team has made a massive step forward. To what do you attribute that massive improvement?
VM: I always pointed out that last year we basically were running the old Spyker car and that Force India really started with the beginning of this season. Even though the name of the team was Force India in 2008, it was not our car. I consider 2009 as the first season of Force India in Formula One. This car is designed by us, is built by us and it has always been a competitive car, even since Melbourne. Unlike the Spyker it hasnt always been running at the back. It is simply a hugely competitive sport that takes time. It has taken other teams years to get to the front. The fact that we have done it in 30 races, I am personally very proud of. Ive made a lot of management changes in this team. I gave all the young engineers a chance. We dont have an equivalent of a Mike Gascoyne any more. The success is a true team effort and not the success of a single individual. That success supports my belief, my guys, my confidence, and I am very proud. This is not my achievement but that of the whole team.
Q: Not so long ago you said that Force India are running on the smallest budget in Formula One racing . What message does your success send out to all the others running on much more money?
VM: A very simple one - money cannot buy performance. With the smallest budget we have shown some fantastic results, which I think proves my point.
Q: So Force India have become a role model for a successful team effectively running under a budget cap?
VM: I am too small and too insignificant to be a role model. I just concentrate on my business and stay clear of politics. I try to do my best, I motivate my people and I am very proud of our results.
Q: Since Monaco last year, Adrian has had his fair share of bad luck. You must be very pleased with his performance today, luck and his ability finally coming together
VM: Adrian has not been unlucky per se. Adrian was disappointed with his luck. During the 2009 season I know of at least three races where Adrian definitely could have scored points. But I always had great faith in Adrian. He is very quick, he is a great human being, he tries very hard, he is honest and that is why I have kept him and encouraged him as far as I could. All the belief that we have in our young people at Force India is paying dividend now!
Q: You just said that Tonio proved you right and that his performance must have silenced all the critics. But have you been surprised about how well he has done?
VM: Before the race I called him to my home in Cannes. He and his manager came. He stayed with me in my villa and I talked to him. What I like about him is that he showed complete commitment. He was hungry! He was willing to go that extra mile to achieve. And hes done it. True, he hasnt been in a race car for a while but today he stunned everybody. I am very proud of him.
Q: Today four teams have been able to put both their cars into Q3 and Force India is one of them. Since Spa where do you see yourself in the pecking order? Are you developing into the fourth power on the grid?
VM: I am not going to speculate. I am going to take it one step at a time. There is no point in trying to predict, but I always tell my guys to stay out of trouble and do the best they can. I have confidence in their ability. And a nice side effect of todays result is that again tomorrow I dont have to go far down the grid!