- Force India
Backers' financial troubles embarrass Force India
The Indian Grand Prix ought to be the highlight of the year for the Force India team, a chance to show off in front of its home fans. But this year it threatens to be an embarrassing weekend for co-owners Vijay Mallya and Subrata Roy.
The pair are under increasing pressure as a result of their business affairs. Roy is chairman of the Sahara group which has been ordered by India's Supreme Court to repay around £1.9 billion to thousands of small investors. The higher-profile Mallya has longer-standing difficulties with his Kingfisher airline, estimated to be more than £1 billion in debt, facing an uncertain future.
As the F1 roadshow arrived in Delhi it was greeted by the sight of grounded Kingfisher jets at the airport, and Mallya himself was reportedly delayed as he sought assurances his private Airbus would not be impounded on arrival.
There was further embarrassment as striking Kingfisher staff, who according to reports have not been paid since March, threatened to picket the grand prix, but that was averted as company officials came up with a hurried settlement.
Although Force India is a separate entity, it is bankrolled by Sahara and Mallya's United Breweries and closely identified with its flamboyant team principal. Drivers Paul di Resta and Nico Hulkenberg faced questions outside their comfort zone at sponsor events from local journalists. "As far as I'm aware, the two companies are separate," Di Resta said. "There is an F1 division and Vijay has other businesses. It is none of my business because I am employed to run the car."
Asked if the financial problems were affecting the team indirectly, he replied: "It is not something I can influence. Everything seems normal."
Otmar Szafnauer, Force India's chief operating officer, was at pains to stress the differences. "There's no problem with the team," he said. "What happens in India is totally different and not associated with the Formula One team."