The transition is officially complete. The Force India Formula One team went from “unmistakably Dutch” to evidently Indian on Thursday as it unveiled its 2008 championship car at the Gateway of India.
From the familiar Indian sponsor names featuring on its chassis to the name it bears after its new Indian co-owner - VJM01 - Dr Vijay Mallya unveiled the new tungsten, white and gold Formula One car in a spectacular laser and sound show attended by Bollywood personalities, team personnel, invitees, racing drivers and a host of local and international media.
“It’s a passionate, emotional but hugely proud moment,” said Dr Mallya, announcing that the team will official feature as an Indian entry in the 2008 FIA World Championship when it kicks off in Australia on March 16.
As drivers Giancarlo Fisichella, Adrian Sutil and Vitantionio Liuzzi were presented in their brand new red and white livery, Mallya reiterated the promise that this first Indian F1 team will feature on the podium of the 2010 Indian Grand Prix.
“It’s a challenging task ahead. It would need a lot of hard work, sweat and tears,” Mallya said to the audience featuring the likes of Shilpa Shetty and driver Karun Chandhok. “But Force India will demonstrate steady progress moving forward.”
In a moment of typical Indian drama and sentiment, he added: “We will have your blessings, prayers and good wishes to help us along.”
It’s the fourth change of livery that the team has undergone in as many years following the annual change of ownership. Among its predecessors, Jordan was the famous yellow, Midland used red and white and Spyker orange and silver. Force India arrives as the new “face of modern India”, as Mallya described it, complete with the Indian tricolour featuring in their logo.
But with the change in colours, Force India would be hoping for a change in fortunes as well. Last season, Spyker was languishing between positions 14-21 with the one-off best 8th-place finish in Japan, which earned them one point.
This year, with a much-improved $120 million budget, they are hoping to be up in the midfield at least.