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Exclusive Q&A with Vijay Mallya: A miracle seemed possible 24 Aug 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 Paul di Resta (GBR) Force India VJM06.
Formula One World Championship, Rd11, Belgian Grand Prix, Qualifying, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Saturday, 24 August 2013 Dr. Vijay Mallya (IND) Force India Formula One Team Owner celebrates a 100th Grand Prix start for Adrian Sutil (GER) Force India F1.
Formula One World Championship, Rd10, Hungarian Grand Prix, Race Day, Hungaroring, Hungary. Sunday, 28 July 2013 Paul di Resta (GBR) Force India VJM06 locks up.
Formula One World Championship, Rd11, Belgian Grand Prix, Qualifying, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Saturday, 24 August 2013 Dr. Vijay Mallya (IND) Force India F1 Team Owner, on the grid.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 13, Italian Grand Prix, Race, Monza, Italy, Sunday, 9 September 2012

The historic Spa-Francorchamps circuit holds good memories for Force India team principal Vijay Mallya. It was at the Belgian track that his rebranded team claimed their first pole position and podium finish with Giancarlo Fisichella back in 2009. For a moment it looked like Paul di Resta might achieve pole this year, but he was eventually bumped back to fifth place. We spoke to Mallya afterwards...

Q: Vijay, one more minute of rain and Force India would have its second pole position. How did you live through that one minute?
Vijay Mallya:
Yeah, Giancarlo Fisichella was on pole here in 2009. That was a sensation back then! Today I was almost sure that it would happen again for the second time. It seemed that another miracle was possible - but that is the excitement and unpredictability of Formula One. Every real racer knows that. (laughs) I think we should be proud qualifying fifth at this track. The team has done a great job.

Q: Why does Spa suit Force India so well? What kind of magic bond is there?
VM:
To be honest, for the last few years I’ve been telling our technical team that we cannot build a car for particular circuits. We have to race through the season on different circuits and the car has to be competitive everywhere. It can’t be that the car is competitive only on certain circuits. But having said that, some circuits suit our car better - and Spa has always suited us because we don’t have the extraordinary downforce, and therefore low-downforce circuits suit us a bit better. Having said that, we have also done well on high-downforce circuits - probably that is the exception to the rule. But yes, Spa is a special circuit for us and the Spa weather always seems to be a bit gloomy and that obviously goes down very well for us. The landscape here is so pretty - the natural beauty of this place. It is just amazing.

Q: This race marks the start to the second half of the season - can you give us your idea of how the first half of the season went for Force India from your point of view? Are you satisfied? What would you have done differently?
VM:
We had a good first half, that is for sure! Finishing the first half ahead of McLaren - holding fifth position in the constructors’ championship - that is quite something. That says it all. Everybody had predicted that they would pass us within the first five races, and now ten races have passed and we are still sitting there. Germany and Hungary were not very good for us after the changing of the tyres. I always said that understanding the tyres and getting performance out of the tyres is critical. We had a good understanding and managed them well in the first half of the season, but then when the tyres changed after Silverstone we fell a bit short. Hopefully we’ve corrected that now and can go forward in the second half of the season. And there is no better way to start than qualifying fifth in the first race of the second half of the season. (laughs)

Q: The driver market is heating up and the rumour mill is working overtime. You have two drivers whose contracts run out at the end of the season. What is your idea of the Force India driver line-up for 2014?
VM:
I am up to nothing. (laughs) I have a reputation in Formula One that I am always the last to announce my driver line-up - and that’s going to be the case again. (laughs)

Q: What is the state of affairs with the 2014 car at Force India?
VM:
We have started it already - like I guess everybody has. It is a brand new car - so many changes! We have a new partnership with Mercedes starting from next year onwards. That is a very special project and we’ve been working already very intensely on it.

Q: Is there a percentage that you can say is already completed?
Vm:
That is almost impossible because right now things are still changing every day. You do something - and think that you’re almost there - and then new ideas come up and you change everything again. We are still in a trial and error process. The car is evolving every day.

Q: What has to happen within the next nine races for you to be able to declare it a good second half of the season?
VM:
I am still disappointed that we’ve missed out on a podium finish! We’ve been so close to it - even last year - and we missed out and that is a bit frustrating for me. But once we’ve been on the podium once or twice then I will be happy to answer this question again. (laughs)

Q: When are you expecting that to happen?
VM:
Any race - but preferably in India! But with Paul (di Resta) qualifying fifth here in Spa it could also happen tomorrow in the race.

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