Exclusive Q&A with Force Indias Vijay Mallya 24 Sep 2011
Even though it hasnt been reflected in the results, Force India have impressed over the last couple of races with the VJM04 displaying some remarkable pace. Following a slow start to the season, this turnaround in fortune has been welcomed by team principal Dr Vijay Mallya. And with the teams home race in India a matter of weeks away it couldnt come at a better time. Mallya discusses his hopes for the Delhi race and beyond
Q: Vijay, we are just over a month away from The 2011 Formula 1 Airtel Grand Prix of India. How emotional will that inaugural home race be for you?
Vijay Mallya: It is hugely emotional! I have been involved in Indian motorsport for more than 30 years. I have been the chairman of the ASN (National Sporting Authority) for more than two decades, so it has always been my dream for India to host a Formula One race and now - finally - this dream is coming true. It will be, as I just said, a hugely emotional moment!
Q: Is India ready for a Formula One race?
VM: Absolutely. It is a classic chicken and egg situation! What comes first? Do you need the popularity first and the race next or do you have to have the race and then the popularity will follow. I think it is a bit of both - clearly with all the pre-race publicity that is going on now on Indian television and in the print media - people are really getting very excited about the Indian Grand Prix. The race will definitely popularize motorsport - and in particular Formula One - in India. I think by the time the race actually really happens there will be a huge increase in the number of Formula One fans in my country.
Q: With Force India P6 in the constructors championship you are gearing up for your home race in great style
VM: Ha, at the end of the day we lost P6 last year by one point to Williams and that was at the last race in Brazil. So we are absolutely determined to keep P6. There are still a few races to go and we will give it everything that we have. We have a special package for this race here in Singapore and I am sure there will be another package for the Indian Grand Prix as well. At every race we are pushing very hard and we will push extra hard at our home race.
Q: One point is a pretty tight margin so you sure must have something special up your sleeve over the next few races
VM: Believe me I know how small a margin of one point can be - but then again it can mean another dimension in the standing. At the moment we are focusing on every race to come but to participate in the Indian tricolours on home soil will be a very special moment. We want to shine there and will do everything to make it happen.
Q: Your driver Adrian Sutil seems to have got his act together after a thorny start to the season. Are you happy now with how he is doing?
VM: I always said that Adrian is a very talented driver and he has been with the team for many years. He is very committed to the team but more importantly hes got the talent and it shows. So I am very happy!
Q: Away from the track, Sutil had a tricky start to the season but the team supported him
VM: Clearly we have to back our people! If you dont back your people then you are not going to get the best out of them. Sometimes they perform well and sometimes, for whatever reason, they dont perform well but you have to keep backing them and motivating them all the time. And in Adrians case it definitely shows now what a good team environment can do.
Q: Paul di Resta has struggled lately
VM: I have to say that Paul is a very talented youngster and he has shown that on several occasions. What he has done in a Formula One car so far has impressed us. Sometimes he was simply unlucky, but look at what he did today - he made it again into Q3 on a track he is not so familiar with.
Q: Both Sutil and Di Resta have reportedly said that they have a contract for next season. You have said you will reveal your driver line-up in December. Any hints?
VM: I have told all three of them that I will make up my mind in mid-December and thats not going to change. I will decide when the season is over with a cool head. They are all my friends - I respect them, they respect me - so thats the way its going to be.
Q: Some team principals in the paddock are probably envious that you can leave the decision so late. Sometimes the effort put in dwindles once the contract is signed
VM: No, I dont think so, at least not in our case. They are all committed to our team. Adrian has been in this team from the time it was nowhere and completely uncompetitive. I like to think we are the best of the midfield pack. We have also beaten some of the big teams in some of the races so that shows our guys are all motivated to be a cut above the others.
Q: You just said that you like to think you are the best of the midfield teams. Is that the maximum that is possible considering your resources?
VM: The amount of resources you deploy is obviously got a bearing on the performance - ultimately. But having said that money alone cannot buy performance. At the moment we are making some capital investment in our factory. We have a new simulator, we are going to have a new wind tunnel and clearly there will be even better results in the future. This season we have been late starters. Our development programme was not completed in the winter so the first fly-away races were an extension of the development work. But once we got to Europe our performance enhanced and is being enhanced at every race. Parallel to that we are also developing the 2012 car.
Q: Whenever you come to a race you give the impression that you are still enjoying it very much. Are you still a petrol head?
VM: Yes, I am and I enjoy coming to a race every single time - and always will.
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