Team Principal and Managing Director, Dr. Vijay Mallya, reflects on an emotional Indian Grand Prix and looks forward to the penultimate race of the year.
The Indian Grand Prix weekend was obviously a huge one for you personally. How would you sum it up?
It was outstanding. It was emotional and there was a great sense of pride. It was a dream come true. When Force India became the first and only Indian team on the grid in 2008, it was a great moment for me too, but even at that time I really didn’t think that India would ever host a Grand Prix. It couldn’t be better, it was like the confluence of two dreams: owning an F1 team and racing on home turf. The icing on the cake was at least getting one car into the top ten and into the points.
Were you impressed with the track itself?
The drivers, and not just ours, have said that it is perhaps one of the best tracks in the world. It’s got all the infrastructure and facilities you need. People may complain that the level of finish needs more attention, but that’s because they completed it in a bit of a hurry. But otherwise the basics are there.
And what about the team’s performance?
Adrian did a superb job: he kept his head and drove really well. He made sure he didn’t give up ninth place. With Paul we knew exactly what we were doing, starting on the hard tyre and bringing him in early. Had there been a safety car, Paul’s eventual race result might have been vastly different. But we had to take the gamble – no guts, no glory, I guess! Overall I’m quite happy with our performance and I don’t think there’s any reason why we should not feel proud of what we have done.
At this stage of the season points are precious in terms of the constructors’ championship…
Formula One becomes more and more competitive with each passing day. 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.
The other big news in India was the announcement of your One from a Billion winner. How satisfying is it to be promoting Indian talent?
It is huge. 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. But 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.
In India you indicated that you will make a decision on the drivers for 2012 sooner rather than later. Can you update us on that?
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.
Any thoughts on the rest of the season?
Only two races to go! We hope to do well in Abu Dhabi, particularly because we think the car is suited to the track. Let’s see.
Adrian on Abu Dhabi
Adrian Sutil savours his points finish in Delhi and gets set for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Adrian, how satisfying was it to get some points in Sahara Force India’s home race?
It felt really good and I think that was the maximum for us. I just lost out to the Toro Rossos because they were faster on the day. But I was happier with the balance than in Korea, so it’s clear that we made a little step with the car. Ninth position was two very important points so it was a good weekend.
It was a very busy week for you and the whole team – did you enjoy having all that attention?
It was very nice in the drivers’ parade, I could see all the people in the stands and they were really cheering for us a lot. It was a very special crowd, very unique. I haven’t seen so many fans for us at any other circuit. It’s definitely something I will remember.
What are your thoughts ahead of the Abu Dhabi race?
It was a difficult race for us last year, but I think this year it should be much better. There are long straights and hairpins, and it’s a track where low-speed corner performance counts. That should suit our car so I think we’ll be okay.
Paul on Abu Dhabi
Paul Di Resta looks forward to his first race at Yas Marina.
Paul, let’s look back on the Indian Grand Prix – a gamble on the strategy didn’t go your way, but a good result for the team…
We always knew that we were going extremely aggressive with the strategy. It was a decision to cover our bases. We took this route based on the tyre data from Friday, but the conditions in the race turned out to be quite different. Sometimes it works for you and other times you have to take it on the chin. Other than that the speed in the race was strong. The big picture is our position in the constructors’ championship so it was important that Adrian picked up the points. We said all along that the fight for sixth place would go down to the wire and we need to continue delivering in the next two races.
Abu Dhabi won’t be a totally new experience for you, but you’ve yet to race there…
I did half a day at the young driver test and then a full day for the Pirelli tyre test last year. So I’ve learned the layout and have a feel for the place. Before we get there I’ll have another half day in the simulator to get back up to speed.
What were your impressions of the track last year?
It’s a very technical circuit with a lot of tight, low-speed corners and you need to be very precise with the car. There’s very little high-speed stuff, apart from the esses after turn one, but they are taken pretty much flat anyway. There are definitely some similarities with Singapore so that’s a reason to be optimistic because the lack of high-speed corners seems to suit our package. As ever, we have to see how the teams around us perform.