Exclusive Vijay Mallya Q&A: Force India on target for podium 26 Jun 2012
Whilst some left Sundays Valencia race wondering what might have been, others - including Force India team principal Vijay Mallya - departed satisfied and full of optimism. With both Nico Hulkenberg and Paul di Resta finishing in the top ten, the team added 16 points to their tally to draw within a point of race-winning rivals Williams. The focus, however, has already shifted to the next round and Mallya is hopeful the teams planned Silverstone upgrades could see them finish on the podium
Q: Vijay, both Force India drivers finished in the points in Valencia. Why did the team prove so successful last weekend?
Vijay Mallya: Well, the car was performing great all weekend long. In fact I was hoping for a better qualifying result, but in Q3 maybe both overdrove the car, locked up the wheels etc. So we started eighth and tenth while I was actually hoping to start in the top five. We knew that this seasons unpredictability has been mainly down to the tyres, so tyre management is critical. Therefore we spent all our energy on Friday and Saturday analysing potential tyre performance in various track temperatures. That helped us decide to put one car on a one-stop strategy. It looked almost impossible, but we said that if we dont try it we are never going to know where the boundaries of the tyres are in hot conditions. Nico Hulkenberg was on a traditional two-stop strategy and had the opportunity to pit under the safety car. So guts and luck came together. We are really proud of the result, even though it was a bitter pill when Nico Rosberg overtook Paul (di Resta) on the last lap. But his tyres were old - and Rosberg had fresh tyres. But there is nothing to complain about. It was a good result and weve bagged 16 important points. We are only one point shy of Williams right now and 16 points away from Sauber, who have had podium finishes. So we are getting there. We are definitely on target. I want to finish fifth in the constructors championship this year and - fingers crossed - it looks like were getting there.
Q: Was it a surprise?
VM: Speaking frankly, we should have had the same or a similar result in Canada. But there we completely miscalculated the tyre behaviour. We ran the tyres too hot and subsequent analysis confirmed that this was a mistake on our part. We all agreed that it was a mistake and without it we would have left Montreal with a better result, possibly even a double points finish. But that is Formula One. There is always an element of unpredictability. We now have our sights set on Silverstone and we go there with a great deal of confidence, knowing that our car is competitive.
Q: You have two drivers in their second year of Formula One racing. Was it a brave decision to choose youth over experience?
VM: I have never regretted my decision about the drivers. On the contrary, I think we have two potential world champions in this team. They are both exceptionally talented. I am very delighted to have them.
Q: The rumour is that Force India will bring a substantial upgrade to Silverstone. Is there any truth in that? Is that your way of saying you want to move even further up the grid?
VM: Absolutely. We regard Silverstone as one of our home races. Our headquarters is just a stones throw from the track. It is our home race in Europe and of course the Indian Grand Prix is our real home race in India. We will do whatever it takes to bring as many upgrades as possible to be even more competitive. That goes without saying.
Q: In Valencia, there was a heated race but there was also a heated meeting of team principals regarding the Resource Restriction Agreement (RRA). What is your stance on that?
VM: I think that the RRA is something that everybody agrees to, in principal. Even when FOTA was together - and active - all the teams agreed with the concept of resource restriction. In fact I would go one step further and say that the RRA was one of the reasons why FOTA was created. And then one by one, teams went in their own directions so we never had the chance to agree. The concept of the RRA is a must-have if Formula One is to survive in the long term. It also must provide a level playing field. Look at the amount of excitement this season. We have had seven winners and only one repeat victor, which is fantastic. The big four teams are dropping down and the midfield teams are getting on the podium. For fans across the world this is fantastic compared to a predictable season where one team or one driver is always winning. A level playing field will ensure this tendency stays. So resource restriction is important and the FIA has now taken it upon itself to create regulations aimed at restricting resources. At the last World Council meeting it was agreed that we will have a fax vote at the end of June. We at Force India are completely committed to the concept.
Q: Lately we have heard rumours that Thailand is also hoping to host a Formula One race. Is the Asia-Pacific region becoming increasingly important for Formula One racing as Europe faces up to its economic troubles?
VM: It has long been acknowledged that the emerging markets in the Asia-Pacific region are a real opportunity for moving forward. The more races we have in this region the better for the sport. Of course for us - in our own selfish way - the more races there are in Asia-Pacific the better for our sponsors and shareholders. But equally it is fantastic that we will race again in the United States in Austin, Texas, and I hear there are negotiations for a race in New Jersey. Two races in the United States sounds fantastic. Formula One is present where it should be present. I also believe there is a race planned in Russia. All that is great news for Formula One.
Q: The teams result in Valencia was your best for some time. India must be really getting behind the team now
VM: I hope so. I havent named the team Sahara Force India for nothing! It was intended to fulfil the aspirations of the hundreds of millions of young people in India.
Q: What would be your dream result in Silverstone?
VM: We want to be on the podium. I think were close to it now.
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