Mallya explains why he shunned Indian drivers
While motor sport aficionados are eagerly awaiting an Indian behind the wheel of a Force India F1 car, Vijay Mallya says there is no compulsion to have a countryman on board. It could well be a case of misplaced patriotism, according to Mallya.
The corporate czar went on to add that Narain Karthikeyan, the first Indian driver to feature on the F1 grid, "is not meeting his criteria".
"In my F1 context, Narain doesn’t fit in. When it comes to Karun Chandhok, I have not let my personal relationship come in between. Among a billion Indians, I am sure there will be at least one Lewis Hamilton. Only the lack of suitable replacements has forced to retain the same team for 2009. The normally-expected GP2 graduation didn’t happen this time," he added.
Mallya announced that he will be launching a comprehensive driver development program next year. "Force India will bear all expenses of the driver starting from karting to F1. Karts will be imported from foreign countries and we will provide the youngsters the best platform," he informed. Excerpts:
On the progress of Force India: Our performance in the first half of the season was very encouraging. In Monaco, we had a review meeting to see what went wrong. We were given certain assurances that didn’t happen. So we had no other choice other than revamping the think tank by sacking technical official’s Collin Kolles and Mike Gascoyne.
On the financial meltdown: The world is suffering from the economic slowdown. It has affected all. Motor sport is no exception.
However, F1 is in a different level. It has been the pinnacle of motor sport and in a zone where money is not a matter. People will keep spending money to do well in F1. When it comes to domestic racing, what we spend here is miniscule. I hope those who have been sponsoring the national championships will continue with their support.
On Honda’s pullout: Honda has only decided to withdraw from F1, but they are very much on in MotoGP and IndyCar. That’s because Honda spent a lot of money on their F1 team without results, and that could have been a reason. I wouldn’t be surprised another team exits F1.
On FIA’s proposal of cutting the cost down in F1: The cost cutting measures have been judicially planned and it is not to downgrade the sport. FIA and FOM are acutely aware that F1 will lose its sheen because of cost cutting measures.
On the Indian GP in 2011: The Indian government had asked our recommendations after promoters JP Group applied for remittance of substantial money toward license fee to the Formula One Management. Track architect Herman Tilke told me that the construction has already started.
On the way forward after FMSCI regained power: Everybody knew that there was a conflict between two organizations and so there was an air of uncertainty. I spent almost two years trying to merge the two bodies but MAI president Naseer Hussain never accepted the reunion and rejected the proposals I made. After a series of meeting we have achieved what we wanted to. With a new CEO in place I am sure the FMSCI will function professionally.