On the back of the announcement that Indian billionaire Vijay Mallya is set to take over Spyker F1, there has been a surge of interest in the sport in his home country, India.
Subject to due diligence, Mallya will be buying a 50% stake in the F1 team and will be injecting much needed cash into the team. Michiel Mol, a Dutch entrepreneur who was one of the key men when Spyker purchased the Midland Group 1 year ago, will own the other 50% of Spyker F1.
Mallya s influence has created a surge of interest in Formula 1 in India, and it is expected that plans for an Indian Grand Prix will go ahead. “The excitement was so huge that there are people waiting in line now with their cheque book in their hand trying to partner with us,â€ Mallya remarked. “I have not heard of anything like that in any other part of the world.
“And when we announced that the Indian flag would be part of the team colours and logo, there was an explosion of excitement romping through the country.â€
India is one of the largest and fastest-growing economies and Mallya believes his deals will act as a catalyst to help the sport tap into the market. “The real excitement with an Indian-owned team will be the 200 million new fans that India will add to the Formula 1 community,â€ Mallya added. “That is a big step forward for the sport.â€
However, Mallya does accept that his team will not be challenging for Formula 1 titles quite yet. “Sure, there will be no miracles in 08,â€ he said. “That s simply not possible. But as we move forward, you will see significant progress.
“The deal will be completed by the end of September. In between, I will sit down with the team management to come up with a sound budget. Just off the top of my head, in a very casual way, maybe yes, the budget has to be increased and if it is justified, and the money is spend in the right way, I have no problems in approving a bigger budget for the team.â€
As yet, the driver line-up for the new team is unknown however it is clear that Mallya would favour an all-Indian driver line-up. “An Indian team with an Indian driver would be the ideal combination,â€ he explained. “In the future, I will look very carefully into out karting championship to identify talents that can be developed into potential candidates for the team.â€ However don t be surprised if you still see Sutil in the team next year his manager Manfred Zimmerman has insisted that the young driver still has a valid contract with the team for 2008, even if the team is taken over by Mallya.
The name of the team is also an unknown quantity, although Mallya has some thoughts of his own. “I don t know if we can keep the name Spyker,â€ he said. “Spyker is a car company. One thing is for sure, I want to put the word India into the name of the team, but I have not really spent time on the name so far,â€
Spyker, meanwhile, are putting thoughts of the bid to the back of their minds as they concentrate on the up-and-coming race at Spa. Team principal Colin Kolles in confident that the B-spec car which failed to help the team improve their position on the grid on it s debut at Monza will be more competitive this weekend.
The F8-VII has an improved chassis which is meant to have helped the team s performance. However, the improvement was not seen at Monza and the team started from their customary positions at the back of the grid.
Despite this, Kolles is pleased with the fastest lap times that both of his drivers managed. “When you look at the race results, you ll see us in 19th and 20th positions and I m sure you will think not much has changed,â€ Kolles remareked. “But I think we can be very positive about the team s performance over the weekend.
“As a team, we did not make any mistakes two new cars ran faultlessly and both got to the finish, despite only having a limited testing programme beforehand. We also showed an improvement in race pace over the A-spec cars, with both Adrian and Sakon setting times very similar to the Toro Rossos and Super Aguris.
“This year, we have struggled on tracks with low downforce and high speeds, but in Monza, we were much closer than before. I think it was a solid debut that we can certainly build on.â€
Kolles is confident that the new car will perform better at the higher downforce track at Spa, and is determined to see his team start from anywhere but the back of the grid.
“I think Spa-Francorchamps would suit us better than Monza, and we d like to think that we can better our performance,â€ Kolles continued. “Our goal has now got to be to get off the back row of the grid so we can take advantage of our improved race pace.â€