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Force India programme to produce Indian F1 drivers

MAI would identify the budding drivers who can make it big, Force India would do everything else to groom them for the big league of Formula One.

india Updated: Jan 21, 2008 16:26 IST

After fluttering the tri-colour on the Formula 1 grid, Force India has now set about the task of unearthing homegrown Michael Schumachers and Lewis Hamiltons with a new driver programme.

The first concrete step was taken when the Motorsports Association of India (MAI) collaborated with continental motorsports bodies to form the Autosport Academy Asia in Johor Baru, Malaysia.

While MAI would identify the budding drivers who can make it big, Force India would do everything else to groom them for the big league of Formula One.

"The MAI will identify deserving young Indian drivers who will be supported by Force India to undergo a driver training course at the academy," Vijay Mallya, Chairman and Managing Director of the Formula One team told PTI.

"Drivers who show exceptional abilities will then be further supported by Force India to race in selected European Championships," said Mallya, also the MAI chairman.

With Mallya, along with the Mol family, taking over the Spyker team and renaming it Force India, many expected to see an Indian driver -- either Narain Karthikeyan or Karun Chandhok -- behind the wheels.

But while Karthikeyan veered to A1 GP, Chandhok felt he needed another season in the GP2 series before taking the F1 plunge.

Force India subsequently unveiled an impressive driving line-up comprising Giancarlo Fisichella, Adrian Sutil and Viantonio Liuzzie, the last being the test driver.

Mallya said the basic idea behind the new programme was to produce Indian F1 drivers.

"The principal objective is to identify, train and eventually prepare an Indian driver for the Force India F1 Team to compete in the FIA Formula One World Championship," he said.

The academy in Malaysia, based at the Johar circuit, will be affiliated to the French Motorsport Federation(FFSA), which runs a driver training programme in Formula Campus single seater racing cars at their facility in Le Mans.

The Asia academy will have two driver courses which will assess if the youngster is good enough for F1.

To motivate the drivers, two prizes would be up for grabs at the academy.

The first prize winners will get a drive in the newly upgraded long course in Le Mans where there will be a Euro 60,000 subsidy from the FIA - to be allocated from the McLaren fine -- and the second one would come in the form of a Euro 30,000 subsidy.

And in case any Indian makes it to Le Mans, Force India would offer its help to the driver.