Mallya refutes criticism over lack of Indian driver

2011 F1 season

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Vijay Mallya, Force India, Buddh International Circuit, 2011

Vijay Mallya says he won’t bow to pressure to put an Indian driver in his car.

The Force India team principal said he will put the interests of his team first: “Everybody has been quite critical of me, particularly in India, as to why I don’t have an Indian driver in the car.

“They’re trying to force comments out of me on the two Indian drivers that we currently have and I’m not going to fall into that trap. All I know is what’s good for my team and that’s what I’ve been doing.”

Mallya, who is also honourary chairman of the Federation of Motor Sports Clubs of India, praised the three young drivers selected for Force India’s One From A Billion Hunt to find a young Indian racer:

“I’ve often said that amongst 1.2 billion people there’s got to be a Lewis Hamilton somewhere. We found three exceptionally talented kids, all 14 or under.”

Mallya added he was yet to make a decision on whether Nico Hulkenberg would replace Adrian Sutil and Paul di Resta in 2012:

“All the drivers have asked me to make an early decision, and I respect that. I have a big decision to make! But it’s not made yet – I’m not the type of guy who’s going to make a decision and string people along. When I decide I will just tell them the way it is and that’s it.”

Mallya admitted the team are under pressure from a resurgent Toro Rosso for sixth place in the championship: “Toro Rosso has clearly made a huge step since Japan. We’ve also made a bit of a step with the upgrades we brought to India.

“But at the end of the day you never know until the last race is over. We found that out painfully last year when Williams pipped us by one point, but now I think we’re comfortably in sixth position, ahead of Toro Rosso as well as Sauber. But it’s never done until it’s done.”

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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30 comments on “Mallya refutes criticism over lack of Indian driver”

  1. Vijay Mallya is obligated to take the two best drivers available to him at any one time. If neither of those drivers is Indian, what has he done wrong?

    1. @prisoner-monkeys I couldn’t agree more.

      1. I also tend to agree, but I think he has brought the problem on himself by calling his team after a country!

        1. It’s easy to forget this, but its a very important point. The fact the team has pretty much nothing to do with India but is named Force India is a bit ridiculous. I understand the one in a billion program, but don’t they need more of the team staff to be representative of India and not the UK?

    2. COTD right there!

      1. Agreed.

        On another note, does anyone else browse around the Indian blogs every so often? I use a few different key words in a google update so I’m often forwarded stories about F1 from some of them. Are Indians under the impression they’d have a vibrant enduring successful athletic culture if not for corporations and waste getting in the way? Seems too many take their cue from PT Usha (recently talking with reporters about F1 not being a sport and other such rhetoric) and others like her, and are under the impression some sort of “evil corporation” type capitalistic system has been squelching athletics in India… seemingly suggesting that “others” have been keeping them from vast Olympic medal successes. Pretty tired of it myself.

    3. Exactly what I was going to say, but now I don’t need to. I fully respect him for taking the best drivers he can, and for not bowing to PR stunts.

      1. Yep, proves it’s a serious race team. Nationalist’s are like that though, quality doesn’t count if it’s not our quality. It won’t be Indian motorsports fans who are complaining though, they’ll know what’s what. As usual it’ll be politicians and rivals to Mallya making flawed points in an attempt to devalue his acheivments in a sport they haven’t got a clue or a care about.

        1. There are Indians who are good enough to be in Formula 1 but it’s a question of where they fit into the grid. I think Narain Karthikeyan made quite a case for himself at the Indian Grand Prix, but that does not automatically mean that he belongs in a team that is defending sixth place in the World Constructors’ Championship.

          That’s the problem with these “national” teams – sooner or later, there is going to be pressure to put a local driver in the team, and it usually comes from people who do not really understand the sport. Fortunately, for all their criticism, they’re very easy to talk down. But perhaps Mallya could have named his team something else; he made his point when he ran a livery in the colours of the Indian flag, and when he competed under an Indian racing licence. In MotoGP’s 125cc category, the Mahindra Racing team haven’t felt the need to go around boldly announcing that they are Indian. And – shock, horror – they haven’t faced calls to run an Indian rider.

          1. Weal, Mallya is a proud Indian and wants make a point about his Silverstone based racing team. So he can name it whatever he likes, any team is welcome to call themselves whatever, it’s always getting the best personel that matters long term. Oh, cash makes a bit of a difference they tell me.

          2. Well, then, he probably shouldn’t act surprised if there is pressure to run an Indian driver …

          3. Which is why the Italian team is a private run entity called Ferrari, of course :-) Yes, there are sometimes murmurs that it is sad to not have Italian drivers, but winning comes first, so if they aren’t there, well then.

            A young driver program is a good way to find and bring talent when and where it is found, but those drivers aren’t helped much by hype they can’t live up to.

          4. @Prisoner Monkeys Suprised, no, dismissive, I’d say so.

    4. Exactly that @prisoner-monkeys.

      It’s a sport and the team should do their best to get the best results on track. That is the best promotion and motivation they can have.

      1. @BasCB Of course. If India plan on being a part of Formula 1 for years to come they have to appreciate that a grassroots approach is needed. The last thing they need is a national shoe-horned in. It could be very damaging for the team, and the individual.

        Besides, no driver in their right mind would want a seat based on circumstances. They should want it on merit and talent.

  2. Paul & Hulk should be a good combination for the team.

    1. Very young, bit like Sauber. Wonder what Hulk for Sutil would change about Force India, it’s an intresting thought. It’s one step back to go two steps forward eventually, not sure how long that would take though.

      Sutil definatley needs a change of sceane though.

      1. Maybe it’s not so much a case of getting something new as it is giving up soemthing old. Adrian Sutil has done five (I think) seasons with the team. Maybe it’s time for someone new.

      2. Paul is 25, Hulk is 24. That’s young but not very young.

        Look at Torro Rosso, now that’s young. :p

  3. Unnecessary criticism but I had to sit through plenty of unnecessary praise from Eddie Jordan so I’ll call it karma.I’m not a Mallya fan but he got his driver decision right, although I want to see the Hulk do his stuff.

  4. Vijay Mallya says he won’t bow to pressure to put an Indian driver in his car.

    Kudos to Mallya. This is something which is rare nowadays in F1.

  5. most pressure comes from Chennai & people who don’t like Mallya and some journos who seem to have no clue about f1. but it’s still a question as when we will see an competent Indian driver who is fighting for the championship & victories with the teams like Ferrari & McLaren. and when that happens f1 will become huge in India.

    1. In my opinion, the Indian press are pushing for an Indian driver at the sharp end of the grid, for one reason only..advertising!

      An Indian driver in a reasonable car would be the Indian advertising community’s wildest wet dream come true. I have been to India, cricket players hog almost every billboard and tv commercial, namely M S Dhoni. Every major consumer service and product is endorsed by a cricket star or Bollywood icon..its amazing.

      So obviously the press (who are funded by adverts in their papers) would want an India in F1, its simple economics.

      India is where Malaysia was a few years ago when there aggressive calls for a Malaysia driver because we had Sepang. As we all know, this culminated with the humiliation of having Alex Yoong funded by major Malaysia corporations. As much as I hated the whole façade, I can see how it has made a difference. The rise in grass root racing activities in Malaysia has risen quite dramatically over the last decade. Although not anywhere near Japan or Europe, we are seeing more and more youngsters break into regional and international lower formulae. Local corporations have also shown a keen interest in funding these youngsters.

      Having said all this, India should be ahead in the game because Narain and Karun have knocking about F1 over the last couple years. India dont need an Indian in Force India, the point has been made, you have two Indians in F1, both who are unfortunately pay drivers. They need more people like VJM to fund grass roots programs so that more Indians make it to F1 on merit via Asian and European Formulae.

      This will not happen overnight for sure. Just look at Japan. They have a rich culture in sports car racing and open wheelers, but how many Japanese have actually made to F1 and stayed there on merit?..only a few come to mind i.e. Katayama, Sato and Kobayashi?

      1. yes agree but the problem here is that Mallya is put a question about Karun & Narain as to why he does not give them a drive & he is portrayed like some evil snob. even comments from people close to Narain & Karun seem to suggest that they have the right to be in those cars & he is not giving them a chance for non-sporting reasons.

        1. “They have the right”?
          Hardly, the team owns the cars, not them. They have the right to try and earn a drive in those cars, its still up to VJM and the team as to whether they get it.

  6. Who is the “they” that Vijay Mallya is referring to? I am in India and haven’t heard any such comments in the past week….

  7. I’m an Indian, and if Mallaya couldn’t find a fast enough Indian, then i say so be it. Nothing wrong with not running an Indian driver. Anyone who says that he must run an Indian driver because his team is “Indian” and he is one himself, that person isn’t thinking straight and i wouldn’t pay attention tp such drivel.

  8. We would have an over-abundance of British drivers on the grid if all the “British” teams only used British drivers …

  9. The same senario is yet to play out in the American press as next November is on the horizon. There will be plenty of heat from the press as to where is the next American F1 driver at, as the first of the US Grand Prix arrives. Like it was said elsewhere a driver should only be selected on his merit and ability and never one of nationality.
    When a future prospect steps into the cockpit I hope that he will be ready to go and will produce results. Think about Scott Speed and Seb Vettel. Both had promise and only one produced results. If the next generation of Indian drivers is good enough then their chance may happen, until then the number of choices is pretty limited.

  10. OmarR-Pepper (@)
    8th November 2011, 16:22

    Indian drivers can now learn more about F1 being younger, because now there’s a national track, that will bring some atention to other categories so Indian drivers can shine if they’re good. let’s see how Brazil, Japan, England and Germany have had lot’s of drivers because the national background and experience can get them to F1 faster (when there’s talent of course)

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