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Vijay Mallya Q&A: Force India throwing everything at 2014 18 Dec 2013

James Calado (GBR) Force India VJM06 makes a pit stop.
Formula One Young Drivers Test, Silverstone, England, Day One, Wednesday, 17 July 2013 Dr. Vijay Mallya (IND) Force India Formula One Team Owner.
Sahara Force India Press Conference, Belgrave Square, London, Thursday, 12 December 2013 Adrian Sutil (GER) Force India F1 and Paul di Resta (GBR) Force India F1 and the Force India F1 Team pose for a team photo.
Formula One World Championship, Rd18, United States Grand Prix, Race, Austin, Texas, USA, Sunday, 17 November 2013 Vijay Mallya (IND) Force India F1 Team Owner and Nico Hulkenberg (GER) shake hands. Force India F1 Sign Nico Hulkenberg for 2014, Force India Factory, Silverstone, England, 3 December 2013. Sergio Perez (MEX) is announced as a Force India driver with Dr. Vijay Mallya (IND) Force India Formula One Team Owner.
Sahara Force India Press Conference, Belgrave Square, London, Thursday, 12 December 2013 Dr. Vijay Mallya (IND) Force India F1 Team Owner.
Formula One World Championship, Rd12, Italian Grand Prix, Qualifying, Monza, Italy, Saturday, 7 September 2013 Paul di Resta (GBR) Force India VJM06 rear wing.
Formula One Testing, Day 1, Barcelona, Spain, Tuesday, 19 February 2013 Adrian Sutil (GER) Force India VJM06.
Formula One World Championship, Rd16, Indian Grand Prix, Buddh International Circuit, Greater Noida, New Delhi, India, Preparations, Friday, 25 October 2013 Dr. Vijay Mallya (IND) Force India Formula One Team Owner.
Formula One World Championship, Rd17, Indian Grand Prix, Buddh International Circuit, Greater Noida, New Delhi, India, Qualifying, Saturday, 27 October 2012

Force India have pulled off something of a coup in the last few weeks by landing two of the most highly-regarded young drivers in Formula One racing - Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez. But their arrivals also signalled the departure of Paul di Resta and Adrian Sutil from the Silverstone-based squad. Team principal Vijay Mallya discusses, amongst other things, the reasons behind the line-up change…

Q: Is this one of the best line-ups you’ve had at Force India?
Vijay Mallya:
Absolutely, I’m very excited. My thought process was very simple. When Sergio drove for Sauber he certainly caught my eye. He was very quick and I guess that was noticed by McLaren. He was signed up by McLaren and I wasn’t very surprised - they are a world-class team, a very big team, and if they signed up Sergio Perez, they obviously saw something in him. I had also seen this, but well before I could even approach him he had gone to McLaren. Which driver in Formula One wouldn’t want to go to McLaren?

I’ve always had my eye on Nico Hulkenberg. I told him as early as Malaysia, ‘Nico, if you decide to change from Sauber you better come back home.’ He said, ‘Alright, I promise you. If I decide to change, my first option will be with you’. He stuck to his word - he told me he wanted to move and I said fine. Yes, I’m sure Nico talked to other teams, but at the end of the day, true to his word, I signed him up. I recently read in Autosport magazine that all of the team principals in F1 voted Nico the seventh best driver in the sport - that’s a huge compliment. I feel happy because he’s driving for me. I could have retained either one of our existing drivers, but at the end of the day we’ve had long relationships with both, including Adrian Sutil who had a one-year break but came back to us. I consulted my other team members and they all said that we’ve got a new car and a new set of regulations, so let’s get a new set of drivers who have got fire in their bellies and are really hungry. Sergio and Nico fit that bill.

Q: To have signed two of the sport’s finest talents, what does it say about Force India’s aspirations?
VM:
I think that the track record of performance of Sahara Force India speaks for itself. I’m very proud that amidst my sceptics and critics, when I set the road map going forward I think we’ve achieved everything we said we would. In fact I think we’ve over achieved. We have consistently punched above our weight - that is the mantra, the philosophy of this team. There’s a huge amount of passion and a lot of talent in Silverstone, but more importantly there is a commitment and a hunger to succeed. I think the fact that we’ve signed two of the finest young drivers in Formula One is a reflection of our own attitude. All the designers, engineers and everyone else at Force India feels the same way as our drivers: we are hungry, we’re out to prove a point. I have to say that I was a very, very happy man up until Silverstone when we were running fifth in the championship. We couldn’t get on top of the tyre changes when they came about, but until then to be running in front of a world-class team like McLaren was quite an achievement. We’re throwing everything we possibly can at the design of the2014 car and we were one of the earliest teams to sign a full powertrain package (with Mercedes), so all these things are helping and hopefully will work to our advantage.

Q: It looks like Paul di Resta might drop out of F1 racing, at least for 2014. Do you think he still deserves a place on the grid?
VM:
He’s a great guy and he’s a good driver. I have nothing against Paul, or Adrian for that matter - they both remain very good friends. The bottom line is I wish him all the best and I wish he stays in the Formula One paddock, but don’t forget I brought him into Formula One from DTM. I gave him that opportunity and I was happy to give him that opportunity - I don’t regret it one bit. So I hope he stays (in the sport) and who knows? Maybe sometime in the future there’ll be another opportunity.

Q: Commercially, you’ve spoken of the potential of bringing in Mexican sponsors…
VM:
Mexican, Latin America - that part of the world was totally closed for us: we don’t do business in that part of the world, we had no connection to that part of the world. It’s a long way from India! (laughs) So now at least through Checo, I’m sure there are people who will back him, or he can provide us with introductions and so on and so forth. That goes with the job, doesn’t it? But I don’t believe in the pay driver concept. I’ve had many opportunities in the past where I was offered pay drivers - I was offered a lot of money - and I said absolutely not. That’s not the philosophy of Sahara Force India.

Q: Is it fair to say that he brings a commercial package with him?
VM:
There’s no ‘package’ with him. There might be opportunities going forward.

Q: But those opportunities were irrelevant to why you picked him?
VM:
Yes, absolutely.

Q: That seems quite unusual in F1 racing at the moment, because currently the dynamic is one where drivers contribute…
VM:
For some teams, not all. I certainly don’t believe in it. I will not compromise the quality of drivers for money. I will not let down all of my people in Silverstone who are so passionate about designing and building a competitive race car and then compromise the car on the track by taking a driver who is not the very best, simply because he brings money to the table. That’s something I just will not do - it’s against my basic philosophy.

Q: This week it was announced that the sport is going to try to work towards a budget cap in the future…
VM:
Brilliant news - I hope it’s implemented. It should have happened a few years ago actually, but better late than never.

Q: Of course, the hardest bit is not the idea of a budget cap, but the enforcement…
VM:
At the end of the day, when this was first proposed by FOTA three years ago, there was a mechanism put in place to police it. But if people want to cheat and be dishonest they can, but I wouldn’t necessarily say that any team principal who signs off on a declaration would necessarily push the envelope. Self-governance is better than imposed governance. Once you agree and you’re all together I think it’s almost incumbent on a team principal to make sure the rules are followed.

Q: So in your eyes it would be ideal if it was taken on by the teams rather than policed by the FIA?
VM:
It can be both. It can be one, it can be the other, it can be the two - I think that’s the least of the problems.

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