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Vijay Mallya Q&A: Force India upgrade will bring regular points

27 May 2015

Force India have had a rather low-key start to 2015, scoring points in just two Grands Prix after a promising opening in Australia. However, team boss Vijay Mallya is confident that will all change with their forthcoming major upgrade package. We spoke exclusively to Mallya about their progress, about the planned F1 changes for 2017, and about the chances of Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez retaining their drives...

Q: Vijay, you've taken a bit of a time-out from Formula One racing so far in 2015, attending only the Australian and Monaco Grands Prix. Have you lost your fondness for F1?

Vijay Mallya: Ha, no, definitely not! I was stuck with parliamentary duties and then there was the Indian Premier League of Cricket, but with both over for the time being here I am again where I belong. And F1 hasn't really changed since last season so don't read any loss of fondness into my absence. A number of midfield teams have improved in performance. Yes, Mercedes is still dominating, but they are getting pushed a bit by Ferrari which is good for the show.

I have to confess that our own performance started on a slow note this year, but that was mainly because of the rule changes for wind tunnel usage. We used to use two wind tunnels in the past: we did preliminary design in the old tunnel and then did a lot of correlation work at the Toyota wind tunnel in Cologne. When we had to choose one wind tunnel we chose the more modern tunnel which is in Cologne and that meant shifting the entire aero department from England to Germany - and that took some time.

That is why we couldn't start the season with a bang as we'd have liked to, but the good news is that about midway through the season - certainly before Silverstone - we will come up with our real 2015 challenger and hope to be quite competitive. Checo (Perez) did really well last weekend in Monaco with our old car, so when the new package arrives between Austria and Silverstone I am pretty sure that we will see continuous points finishes at the subsequent races. 

Q: So you are following the good old tradition of finishing with a bang than rather starting with one?

VM: Everybody saw what happened with Williams last year: they started slowly and became a real force in the second half of the year. And it looks like they'll do it all over again this season. (laughs) True, for us there's still a long way to go, but I am quite optimistic.

Q: Are you embracing the changes that are planned for 2017?

VM: The way Formula One is run now - with the Strategy Group - teams are in fact running Formula One. They discuss anything from technical regulations to revenue distribution, etcetera, and that's it. This is one of the few sports where the teams have such a big say in its running. In all other sports you have a promoter - which is FOM - and you have a regulator - which is the FIA. Between them they decide the set of rules and tell all participants: here you are - these are the rules. You've got to comply with them and get on with the championship.

F1 is overly democratic. There are teams in the Strategy Group that are extremely inflexible - they only want to protect their own position. So we have to live with what the Strategy Group decides, which effectively means that we all have to live with what the big teams decide. We have our views and we clearly express them, but we are steamrollered by the big four and that is the rule-making process.

Q: So what would an ideal F1 world look like from your perspective?

VM: First, focus on the entertainment and the growth of the sport. You want more fans, more spectators, and more viewers. That would make the revenue increase. Secondly, make it sustainable for all teams so that big and small can comfortably survive and compete. It is also unfortunate that we are losing some venues - Germany is gone this year. We have top German drivers competing and that makes it even more difficult to understand why Germany has no race. 

Q: There is always talk of cost savings, but then we hear of some drivers receiving huge pay cheques. How does that work?

VM: The driver payments have never been part of any mutual discussion - and certainly not part of Strategy Group discussions. Every team has always treated driver payments and marketing costs completely outside of the rule making. Whatever cost saving measures have been discussed relate to costs of development and putting a car on the grid. But in the end who can say that a driver who asks for £100 million is so much better than a driver who only gets £5 million? I can't see the logic in that - but it's outside my remit to comment! (laughs) 

Q: So what about your two drivers? If you are not offering them big money, how about a job guarantee for 2016?

VM: I have always said that I am delighted to have Nico and Checo as my drivers. They are both highly talented and competent drivers. I am proud that Force India always has great talent in our driver line-up. Just remember that Nico scored points in nearly every race last year and Checo was on the podium in Bahrain. Were it not for our handicapped start to 2015 I guess we would have seen more of that this season. The chances that I will keep them are absolutely very high. I make no bones about it: I like these two guys. I respect them a lot. So there is no reason for me to make a change.