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Exclusive Vijay Mallya Q&A: Great to break Force India's podium jinx

06 Apr 2014

On Sunday in Bahrain Sergio Perez returned Force India to the podium for the first time in five years, much to the delight of team principal Vijay Mallya who wondered when one of his drivers would stand on the rostrum again. In this exclusive interview, Mallya hails the Mexican’s achievement and explains why this could be the start of many successes this season…

Q: Vijay, congratulations! You have pushed your team so hard over the last few years and now, with Sergio Perez, you have scored another well-deserved podium. What does that mean to you?

Vijay Mallya: It is a very special moment. My job was always to make this team climb up the ladder - steadily. I always believed that 2014 - with all the new regulations - gave us a new opportunity. And so far what a good season it has been! We finished sixth in Australia, we improved to fifth in Malaysia - and I think I hinted in Malaysia that I hoped that we could improve further, and there you have it: the podium in Bahrain! We were quietly confident with Checo (Sergio Perez) being fourth on the grid, but everything had to be perfect for us - especially as we planned a two-stop strategy. We were not so sure if we would make the tyres work, but the drivers did an excellent job. Even Nico Hulkenberg was outstanding - starting 11th and moving up to seventh on the first lap and driving a flawless race. It was all down to great teamwork as in the last two to three laps the Red Bulls, on their new soft tyres, were really flying and he (Hulkenberg) managed to hold off Ricciardo and Vettel - and that improved the chances for Perez. Everybody in the team is absolutely delighted that we have finally achieved the podium. Last year we were quite unlucky, but today the jinx is broken - and I would not mind if this is the start of a nice series of podiums.

Q: What do you read into the podium finish? Is it an indication of things to come in the next few races?

VM: You still have the great Ferraris, the great Red Bulls, and the great McLarens of this world - but in the end it is the result that counts. And today’s result means that we are second in the constructors’ championship! It was a fair race, a tough race and the safety car compromised us as we should have finished three and four - because of the safety car we lost the gap - but we still raced and we won third and fifth places on merit and not because of somebody else’s misfortune or somebody else’s hard luck story. That shows that we are competitive and capable of challenging all the big teams. Of course the Mercedes are very, very strong so I am not so sure if we could catch them - but we will try! (laughs) Compared to everybody else we are on a limited budget, and I am very glad that we are proving that on limited resources we are still able to be competitive.

Q: Is the success story of Force India in the past few years - from relative backmarkers to second in the standings - proof that you can run a successful team on a reasonable budget?

VM: Absolutely! Our result speaks for itself. With the resources that we have and with the tools and equipment that we have compared to others - our wind tunnel is still the wind tunnel that was built by Eddie Jordan - we are still competitive. We were top ten in Australia, top ten in Malaysia and podium here in Bahrain - I couldn’t be happier.

Q: Aside from the podium, what was it that gave you the real thrill this evening?

VM: Ferrari is an icon - and when you say Ferrari people tend to think: here is a world championship team. So when I was looking on the monitor from the pit wall and saw that we passed the Ferraris four times, that was a great moment for me! (Laughs)

Q: Did you believe that you would have to wait so long for another podium?

VM: Well, first of all, there is no fast fix in F1. But my guess is that last year we were ready and were unlucky not to achieve two or three podiums. Fortunately this year it is not only luck but also the fact that we have a good car!

Q: How about your two drivers? Checo was quite unlucky in the first two races. Is the podium his reward for keeping the faith?

VM: Probably it was. He raced exceptionally well today. It was not easy for him. He was always under pressure and he made the most of it. It was a great effort by both drivers.

Q: The next race is two weeks away in China - can you repeat your success there?

VM: We are always trying to improve. If we can repeat the podium, that would of course be fantastic. But it is so competitive here that it is not possible to predict anything. I think the only team that can make a sensible prediction is Mercedes because they are so much quicker than anybody else. But I don’t think that any other team can accurately predict where they will be.

Q: Having a Mercedes engine seems like a fantastic asset for Force India…

VM: It is a big asset! From the start of testing it has been reliable, and so it is clear that we’ve made the right choice to sign with Mercedes. All the cars that are in front are Mercedes-powered cars.

Q: If you had one wish for your team - in your moment of glory - what would it be?

VM: That I hope that all the boys have a good time with a lot of champagne and ‘Kingfisher beer’ and celebrate because they all deserve it (laughs).