Troubled business tycoon Vijay Mallya
FORCE India insisted on Thursday (February 14) its Grand Prix team would be able to carry on despite co-owner Vijay Mallya’s financial problems.
Shares in Indian businessman Mallya’s debt-laden Kingfisher Airlines plunged Wednesday (February 13) after banks said they would start recalling loans worth $1.5bn (£966m).
The liquor baron is, though, expected to recoup funds from the $2bn (£1.28bn) sale of a majority stake in India’s United Spirits but the deal must still clear regulatory hurdles.
Despite its name, the Force India Grand Prix team is based at the nerve centre of British Formula One at the Silverstone track in central England.
And deputy team principal Bob Fernley stressed there was a financial as well as geographical separation between Mallya’s other business interests and Force India.
‘There is a disconnect between what happens in Vijay’s business and what Vijay is doing on the F1 team,” Fernley told the jamesallenonf1.com website.
“So it doesn’t matter what happens there. The shares in United Spirits have quadrupled in the last few months, so he did a wonderful deal there.
“But whether Kingfisher or United Spirits is doing well or not doesn’t affect the team, and it’s very difficult for us to get that message across, although we have been trying for several years.
“We get a story every three or four months where we are about to go bankrupt, or someone is selling us or whatever, and we’ve had that for five years, so we are used to it.
“Five times a year we are up for sale. But we are still there and the strength of Force India, which so many people seem to have missed, is our shareholders.
“We don’t have to go to the external market to be able to raise our race budgets. We are blessed to have quality shareholders like Vijay and Sahara (an Indian conglomerate who also sponsor the Indian cricket team).”
Earlier this month, Force India unveiled their new car for the forthcoming Formula One season but they are still to confirm the identity of British driver Paul di Resta’s teammate.
However, the team confirmed on Thursday that a seat fitting for former driver Adrian Sutil took place this week.
Force India is the only outfit on the Grand Prix grid yet to announce a second driver, with Sutil and current reserve Jules Bianchi the leading contenders to partner di Resta.
Last season, Force India finished seventh in the constructors’ championship and then saw German driver Nico Hulkenburg leave to join rivals Sauber at the end of 2012.
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