Let it be said that I really like Vijay Mallya.Â In fact, I really liked the concept behind Force India and the welcome sight of a new privateer with a drive and commitment to the series.Vijay spent 2008 embroiled in a new acquisition assimilation and learning the politics, nuances and expense of Formula 1.Â I think he passed that test with flying colors. He also learned very quickly that he would not be long for the F1 world if he didn’t take his investment seriously and look for alternatives to sputtering around in the back of the grid.
So what does Force India’s new deal with McLaren mean? Well, many things really. A supply of engines, chassis, technology, engineering and resources. Let us be honest here, McLaren know how to do F1. They have brilliant people from owners to engineers to administrative and PR staff. They may not have written the book on F1 but the preface could have been written by them. Vijay stands to gain a wealth of support and may even advance his investment to mid-pack if things work out the way they should but that is a big ‘if’.
I don’t foresee troubles on the horizon for Vijay and his team but with this type of ‘customer car’ situation one can’t help but think that the Force India team will wake each morning in the penumbra of McLaren’s desires, direction and advice. That’s fine as long as Vijay feels the desires, direction and advice is good and for his better interest. But can this type of arrangement really see McLaren representing Force India’s better interest at all times? Their recent ‘recommendation’ on drivers has already made me wonder.
Consider this, Vijay has a young, talented driver from India in Narain Karthikeyan. McLaren are keen to get their test and development drivers to a seat fitting as soon as possible at Force India. Vijay has back-peddled on his anonymity declaration of late and now seems conciliatory to McLaren ‘suggestions’ on drivers. Now color me reactionary but would it not be more beneficial for Force India to seat Narain alongside Fisi or Adrian for the national interest and potential investment?
India is a great nation. Wonderful people with pride for their country and an insatiable desire to become successful in business, manufacturing and global presence. They just landed a probe on the Moon for heavens sake and are developing skills and services that many countries use for their support and administrative staff. It seems to me that Narain in one of the cars would add to the national pride, scope and reach of Formula 1 in India. With rumors of a coming race in 2010, what better way for Vijay to tap into the rising interest in F1 in India? What is Gary Paffett going to do for India?
I realize that A1GP has seen Narain win races and while Tony Teixeira was critical of Vijay for not hiring an Indian driver, is there a shred of prudence in his recommendation? Tony’s assertion that Vijay isn’t developing Indian drivers may be a tad misplaced and I stated back then that the argument could have been made that investing in Indian drivers would be a far better investment in his sponsor interest and potential. Vijay didn’t take the criticism very well but in defense of Vijay’s response, his desire to keep Force India relevant in F1 is going to take more than just sponsorship from Indian companies. Vijay’s new deal with Ron Dennis has made it clear that he isn’t in this for an Indian driver development program but to win or come darn close to it. A noble charge indeed but I see Fisi, Sutil or Narain a better potential than Paffet, Pantano Pedro. Narain would have an added benefit of sponsor money and with him comes a national pride of a nation committed to success and Force India.
To our readers in India, I salute your interest in F1, moon landing and culture. If you have the opportunity to write Vijay, let him know that becoming a McLaren ‘B’ team doesn’t mean he has to sacrifice his own teams culture and anonymity. Narain would a worthy addition to the team.
* 2008: A1 GP World Championship A1 Team India,Winner British GP, Brands Hatch.
* 2007: A1 GP World Championship A1 Team India,Winner Chinese GP
* 2007: Formula One World Championship Williams F1 Team, Test Driver
* 2006: Formula One World Championship Williams F1 Team, Test Driver
* 2005: Formula One World Championship Jordan, 18th (5pts)
* 2004: Formula Nissan World Series (World Series by Nissan), 6th (TATA RC Motorsport)
* 2003: Formula Nissan World Series (Superfund Word Series), 4th (Carlin Motorsport)
* 2002: Formula Nissan World Series (TelefÃ³nica World Series), 9th (TATA RC Motorsport)
* 2001: Formula Nippon, 14th (Team Impul)
* 2000: British Formula 3, 4th (Stewart)
* 1999: British Formula 3, 6th (Carlin Motorsport)
* 1998: British Formula 3, 12th (Carlin Motorsport)
* 1997: British Formula Vauxhall, 8th
* 1996: Formula Asia, Champion
* 1995: Formula Asia (4 races)
* 1994: British Formula Ford Winter Series, Champion
* 1993: Indian Formula Maruti + British Formula Vauxhall Junior
* 1992: ELF Winfield Racing School, Circuit Paul Ricard, France won debut race Pilote Elf Competition for Formula Renault.