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Hard work and ability see Indian rise in F1

Dehradun-born Monisha Kaltenborn is handed the reins at Sauber F1 after quietly climbing up the ladder at the Switzerland-based team. Joe Saward writes.

india Updated: May 22, 2012 01:11 IST
Joe Saward
Joe Saward
Hindustan Times

The value of a Formula 1 team is difficult to pinpoint. The price goes up and down depending on the circumstances, and depending on if there is a buyer. Force India owner Vijay Mallya and his partners, for example, paid $109 million for the Spyker F1 team back in 2007. At that point Mallya was a great believer in spending money to get what he wanted in life.

That is fine if you have endless amounts of the stuff, but for most people money is not something that comes easily. We work away, hoping for the best, living as best we can. And we hope that one day someone will recognize our true value, an unknown distance relative will leave us a fortune, or we will win the lottery.

Advancing through merit alone
That just happened to Monisha Kaltenborn. The Chief Executive Officer of the Sauber F1 team has been given a third of the shares in the Swiss team. She may not be the first Indian to be a Formula 1 team owner, but she has achieved her success based on her ability alone.
If you had told me five years ago that Formula 1 would soon have an Indian woman team owner (with two kids) I am not sure that I would have believed it. Everything is possible in Formula 1, but that seemed rather less than likely.

Of the new generation of team bosses Monisha is one of the smartest. She is smarter still because, unlike some of the others, she has moved up the ladder without having made a lot of noise. She is great believer in women running things - and I tend to agree. If you look Bernie Ecclestone's empire, it is peppered with very intelligent women, who make things happen, while the men make all the noise.

Monisha explains that this is because women don't get trapped so easily in their own ego.

They don't have to play golf to make deals and that they work harder to get the same acceptance as men.

In addition to that their egos do not stand in their way, their decisions tend to be less emotional and so they can achieve more.

Getting her foot in the F1 door
Kaltenborn was a lawyer but was not keen on working for law firms, however, and so headed off in the direction of company law, getting a job in the tiny tax haven of Liechtenstein. The boss of the organization was a partner in the Sauber F1 team and Monisha helped out with some of the legal questions that arose. Peter Sauber was impressed and when Kaiser sold his shares and departed the team, Sauber asked Kaltenborn to stay with him.

She became his head of legal affairs. For the next 10 years she learned about F1 from the inside, keeping below the radar, but becoming k own to all the right people before popping up in 2010 as the team's new Chief Executive Officer after BMW withdrew from the sport and gave the shares back to Peter Sauber.

He says that Monisha was instrumental in the team's survival and since then she has been doing outstanding work in her capacity as CEO and that the donation of share in the company will provide continuity to continue to be led in the style that he likes long into the future.
Good for her. Now how can I get someone to give me a slice of their company?
Or should I buy a lottery ticket?

The writer has covered every grand prix for the last 25 years

First Published: May 21, 2012 23:15 IST