Exclusive Q&A with Force Indias Vijay Mallya 26 Jul 2011
McLaren may have won the plaudits for their excellent win in Germany but Force India were also busy bouncing back at the Nurburgring. After missing out on points at the previous Silverstone round following a pit-stop blunder, the team took an excellent sixth-place finish in Germany, courtesy of driver Adrian Sutil. For team principal Vijay Mallya it has been a real tonic and just the boost needed as Octobers inaugural Indian race draws ever closer. Mallya discusses the German race, rule changes and his driver line-up
Q: After Silverstone, your result in Germany must be a boost
Vijay Mallya: Silverstone definitely was a missed chance - a chance we could have easily transformed into a two cars in the top ten result by virtue of our own strength. It didnt happen. But the Nurburgring has shown that we havent got distracted by that mishap. On the contrary, we wanted to show our true colours - and we did. This is a highly competitive sport and to finish P6 in a race that only saw one of the top drivers - Jenson Button - retire is pretty satisfying. The only frustration is that Paul (di Resta) was the unfortunate victim of a first-lap accident with Nick Heidfeld. Without this, Im sure both Force Indias could have finished in the points to make up for Silverstone.
Q: Di Resta has shown glimpses of talent, but so far hasnt really transformed it into points. How satisfied are you with him?
VM: Paul is a massively-talented driver. Dont forget he is the reigning DTM champion and he was our reserve driver last year, so we knew what we were getting when we signed him for a race seat. As I said he is a very talented driver and an outstanding human being. When Paul started the Silverstone race from P6 he had out-qualified some big names like Lewis Hamilton. But dont forget that Adrian once started from P2 and our highlight clearly remains Giancarlo Fisichella starting from pole position at Spa in 2009. So over the years we have definitely seen some big names behind us and when that happens they are truly special moments.
Q: Lately we have seen the coming and going of new rules. In what ways does manoeuvring like that impact smaller teams?
VM: It has a big impact on small independent teams. Whenever there is a change of rule - even if it is not dubbed as a change but as a clarification - it affects the teams. For the big teams it is a sheer performance issue. For the independent teams it is a performance and financial issue. To us, whether you call it a compliance matter or a rule change it always means a redevelopment of the car. You dedicate a lot of energy on to something just to find out that youve interpreted the rules wrong. Every change means that we spend money and resources a second time. The big boys dont care as much, but for us it has an impact. The FIA had pushed a very concentrated programme of cost control to make Formula One affordable and sustainable and FOTA has agreed on that. We have banned in-season testing, have limited the use of the wind tunnel and weve also agreed a total cost budget. Everything adds up to costs which mean the necessity to spend more and more money. The big teams dont care, but the independent teams must care. Instability in rules - whether it is interpretation or clarification - adds to costs. So it is better for us if they announce the rules in advance so we have a sustainable, uninterrupted development programme, rather than having to stop going in one direction to start going again in another and then just to be told to go back to where we were originally. But despite all that back and forth between Valencia and Germany we have been pleased to see that under either rule weve done enough development to have a fast car.
Q: In middle of the season the so-called silly season starts as the media attempts to find out each teams driver line-up for the next year. How far along are your teams discussions? VM: It is way too early. I will announce my driver line-up around December 15th. Not before that. I want all my guys to focus on the job at hand and not start speculating about their future. I made it very clear that I will make my decision around December 15th.
Q: The inaugural Indian race will be held this year. You have said that you hope one of your drivers makes it on to the podium at the event. Do you believe that's possible?
VM: We still have two and a half months of development time so we will use that time in the best way possible to see what is possible. But even if we have such a race result as we had in Germany or such a qualifying result as we had in Silverstone, it would be fantastic for the Indian fans. The first Indian Grand Prix is a historic event. It will be a very emotional moment for me and it will increase the interest in motorsport in India significantly. It also has huge collateral benefits, like in terms of tourism for example, which I hope our government will recognise. And if Force India puts in a great performance it will be the icing on the cake.
Q: When you come to a race weekend what do you hope to achieve?
VM: That my cars get into the points. Im a very practical man so I am also a realistic dreamer, because unless there is a huge stroke of luck, we are not yet a podium contender - technically speaking.
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