x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Mallya dismisses report claiming he plans to sell team

Force India owner Vijay Mallya said he has no plans to sell the Formula One team and has pledged a long-term commitment to the series.

Dr Vijay Mallya, right, congratulating one of his drivers, Adrian Sutil, after the Singapore GP, is refuting reports that he is interested in selling the Force India team.
Dr Vijay Mallya, right, congratulating one of his drivers, Adrian Sutil, after the Singapore GP, is refuting reports that he is interested in selling the Force India team.

Vijay Mallya, the Force India chairman, said he has no plans to sell the Formula One team and has pledged his long-term commitment ahead of the country's maiden grand prix later this month.

Media reports in India had said the flamboyant liquor and aviation baron was in talks to sell the team to the business conglomerate, Sahara Group.

"I was shocked to read a media report that I am selling the Force India Formula One team. This is completely untrue and without any basis whatsoever," Mallya, said in a statement on Friday.

"As team principal, I will continue to run the team, and I have no plans whatsoever to exit."

Mallya also owns India's second-largest private airline, Kingfisher, and recently announced plans to exit the low-cost part of the airline business in the next four months and focus on the premium model to reduce debt.

The inaugural Indian Grand Prix is scheduled for October 30 at the 120,000-capacity circuit on the outskirts of Delhi.

"I take great pride in having been able to put an Indian team on the Formula One World Championship grid and have worked very hard to greatly improve the performance of the team," Mallya said.

"Now that India is finally on the Formula One World Championship calendar, my commitment to Force India only gets even stronger."

The current drivers for Force India are the German, Adrian Sutil, and Britain's Paul di Resta.

The team formed in 2007 when a consortium, led by Mallya and Michiel Mol, bought the loss-making Spyker Formula One team and later renamed it Force India.

While the team, who are based in Northamptonshire, England, have yet to win a race in F1, they have one pole position, at the Belgian Grand Prix in 2009 by Giancarlo Fisichella, and one second place, achieved at the same race, by Fisichella, to their credit.

Force India are sixth in the constructors' championship this season on 48 points, but go into Sunday's Japanese Grand Prix buoyed by their best result of the season, in Singapore, where di Resta was sixth and Sutil was eighth in the season's only night race.

Sutil was 12th quickest and di Resta 15th in Friday's practice at Suzuka, with Sutil stating the obvious: They need to find more speed in the car if they are to challenge for points in the race.

"I suffered with some understeer at the start of the session with the front giving up, so we worked on improving that," he said.

"We made a step forward by the end of the day, but there's still quite a lot of work to do overnight to find a better balance."

Di Resta pointed out that: "Both cars ran with different programmes and looking at the feedback it seems like the route taken with Adrian's car is probably the better way forward for the rest of the weekend."

@ For more FORMULA ONE visit thenational.ae/topics