With the sale of the Spyker team officially completed, Dr. Vijay Mallya along with Michiel Mol the new team owners were on hand at the Chinese GP. Speaking to Formula1.com, Dr. Mallya answered the most important question, the choice of drivers for 2008 and the rumors about Ralf Schumacher and Narain Karthikeyan.
I know Ralf well from my role as a sponsor of the Toyota team and I personally hold him in high regard. But a driver line-up is not something that should be decided by the heart but by the brain. I want drivers that can raise the standards in the team. I always get asked if we will have an Indian driver and my response is – if I can find one who is ready, yes. But only under the parameters just said. Drivers are a crucial part of the team so the driver line-up is a serious matter and not a sympathy contest.
Would I see an Indian team with an Indian driver or would I see a successful Indian team? I would pick the latter. Besides, as a money making machine, teams with drivers from the same country are not as attractive, well unless you happen to be McLaren with a driver capable of winning the championship.
With Kazuki Nakajima picked to replace the retired Alexander Wurz, yet another door might be closing for Narain Karthikeyan. Why? Because Spyker has Adrian Sutil signed up for the long term and he is a very good driver. So good that other teams are trying to poach him. It would be unwise for Mallya to let him go. The second driver (who would be the primary driver in my opinion) needs to have a lot of technical skill, specially if Mallya wants to invest a lot of money in R&D. Narain might fit the role, but so will a host of other drivers.
Another option might be for Mallya to hire someone like Alexander Wurz who has a wealth of experience as their test driver and give Narain the race seat. The details should unfold in the near future.
Mallya also seem to have a great grasp of the sport. With Mike Gascoyne as their Chief Technical Officer, Spyker can get a lot out of their cars. In fact after they managed to release the B-Spec car earlier this year, the difference between the front runners and Spyker has dropped considerably. With Gascoyne working constantly on the chassis, I am looking forward to Spyker creeping up the order next year.
Detailing his plans for the years to come Dr. Mallya is keen on getting everything he can out of his contacts
Well, first of all I bring India to the F1 table. The potential of India is equal or even better than China. Secondly, out-of-the-box thinking. I have proved with all my businesses that, with an atypical approach, success is possible even in the most challenging environments. Thirdly, my relationship to Airbus Industries will help to push the aerodynamic development, and I have access to composite technology. Fourthly, people management skills. We have good people in the team but they probably have to be managed better. Money alone cannot perform – we have to create an environment for success.
And what about the all important team name?
It is my vision that India is part of the name, yes. What it will be in the end is not decided yet so everybody will have to wait. The name is an integral part of the team identity. Everybody will have to be a little more patient.
I know that short term success in any sport is impossible, but what do you think about Mallya’s purchase and his plans, does it sound like he will be able to make inroads into the middle of the pack?