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Vijay Mallya Q&A: More to come from B-spec Force India

27 Aug 2015

Having introduced a heavily updated car just last month, Sunday’s 2015 Formula 1 Shell Belgian Grand Prix saw Force India equal their best points haul of the season - despite only one driver taking the start - with Sergio Perez even momentarily leading the race on lap one. In an exclusive interview, team boss Vijay Mallya explains why he’s confident of even further improvement in the coming rounds, and why his squad probably really do ‘punch above their weight’…

Q: Vijay, you said that you left Belgium with mixed feelings…

Vijay Mallya: That is so. Checo (Sergio Perez) put in a super performance all weekend and for him a podium finish was very much within reach - and Nico was very unhappy not even having started the race as he had a power loss and had to retreat before the start. Imagine if Nico had had a similarly clean race as Checo! He definitely would have finished in the points and we would not have fallen back in the constructors’ standings to P6. Only by one point, yes, so of course nothing is lost, but we have to analyze together with Mercedes what the cause was on Nico’s car and make sure it doesn’t happen again.

Q: The tone of what you just said suggests that overall you are quite satisfied with Force India’s season so far…

VM: Absolutely. And now that we are running the B-spec car there are definitely more things to come as it is a lot more competitive than the A-spec car, which is showing in track performance. Obviously I am quite happy about the situation - as I said before we will sit down with Mercedes to see what Nico’s issue was - but there is still development going on. We will introduce additional upgrades in the course of the second half of the season and hopefully recapture P5 in the standings. That is the objective.

Q: Nico indicated that Russia will be the race for your next big upgrade - is that so?

VM: I would actually like to bring this upgrade to Singapore. The tracks that we are heading to in the next couple of months are pretty diverse. Monza is in the mold of Spa - a high-speed track - while Singapore is very different. But when the team was building up gradually from last position to where we are now, I always told my engineers that we cannot afford a car that is perfect on particular tracks and faints on others. We need a car that is competitive on every track - and I think that we have achieved that pretty successfully. I was very happy with Checo in Spa. He was really doing well, as he’s had some bad luck lately.

Q: Force India had been sitting in P5 in the standings for some time, but as you said Lotus have now narrowly edged ahead. Were you surprised that you were able to keep the position that long?

VM: No, there is no surprise in F1 - just hard work and using you brain and resources in the best possible way. Look at the last race: Checo was the fastest driver in sector one, so we know that our current car is quick. I would have hoped that both drivers would have finished well in the points - but at least one did.

Q: Is it true that Force India are punching above their weight?

VM: You - and actually a lot other people - say that. If you look at our performance in relation to our expenditure - and considering what others spend - then this saying is very likely true. But in fact we like to run a good, tight ship, with a good atmosphere, good drivers and good commitment from our people. It’s the package. And if they say that the Force India package is punching above its weight, I take that as a compliment. We have under 400 people - and I am sure that I don’t have to double the workforce if I want to go further up the grid. That is what I honestly believe. Yes, I want to get better every year, but I also believe that doubling my work force is not the answer. If somebody tells me that to get to P4 I would have to go beyond 600 people, I very much disagree. We could also do it with our 380 people!

Q: So right now Force India are in a fairly good position. How long will that last? F1 racing doesn’t make a habit of letting teams remain in the comfort zone too long?

VM:
Ha, I know that! And believe me, I like things not to last too long. Imagine we were still in the Spyker position at the very back. I have set my targets for the team, and we are doing very well in achieving them. I will not get carried away saying that we will achieve P4 this season, but there is no reason why we should not target that in 2016.

Q: That sounds like a bold goal…

VM:
Well, 2016 is carry over from this season and when the B-spec delivers what we believe it has the potential to, then why not? 2017 is a whole different ballgame. My guess is that the cars will have to be ‘re-invented’ again - and we will start early to stay ahead of the game.

Q: And of course you want to keep your two current drivers for 2016…

VM:
I have always said that I am delighted with both of them and I want to keep both of them.