India will have to wait before its first Formula one team owner puts one of our own on the grid. In a pointed query as to why he chose to ignore Narain Karthikeyan without even testing him, Mallya slammed back blunt: “In my F1 context he doesn’t fit in.” Those in the know suggest that the team feels that Kartikeyan is just not good enough. The response to the poser on Karun Chandhok is more delicately phrased given Mallya’s long-standing friendship with the Chennai racer’s family. “He is like my son. But I have not broken the professional rules of Force India F1 and announced in respect of Karun only because of my personal relationship.”
Pressed on the issue Mallya elaborates: “The team is totally professional. Whatever the team needs is going to be done, simple and straight forward. So, there is no compulsion to put an Indian driver for the sake of putting an Indian driver. On the contrary I would love to have an Indian driver.”
For that the team intends to go fishing deep into the murky waters of Indian karting. “In 2009 we are going to launch a comprehensive programme of driver identification and where we see youngsters with talent, Force India is going to pay all the way through to international karting, single-seater racing, GP2 and on to Formula 1.” Mallya goes on to add that the national Federation -- FMSCI — needs to focus its priorities. “I don’t think FMSCI should concentrate on creating an F1 driver. FMSCI should concentrate on broad basing motorsports in this country. (Making an) F1 driver is my job as Force India F1.”
That Mclaren feeling
That Mallya will make no compromises when it comes to his team is all the more in-the-face when one asks as to just how he expects Indians to back a team that’s bottom of the grid. “McLaren is a highly respected name in motorsport. McLaren’s been a world championship team for donkey’s years. Would they associate with me to be last of the grid? What will it say for them forget what is says about me!” he flares up.
“Obviously I have done what I needed to do to improve. I am not ready to sit here to quantify my improvement. If you look at some figures, Force India is the most improved team on the grid. But 2008 was the most competitive season in F1 history; 1/10th of a second separated four cars.”
Engines are virtually standard
Despite all the talk and speculation about power plants that occupies fan mind space and print columns Mallya say that the question a common engine is largely a non-issue. “Max Mosley did not go bananas at all (when he proposed it). The engine is standard virtually in any case in terms of performance. Mosely proposed that any team has the choice of buying the FIA unbranded engine or running a Ferrari, Mercedes, McLaren etc. The specs are all the same, the power curve is the same. The engine is a very small factor in the performance of the car. It is reliability that is most important.”