Going against the general grain amongst Formula 1 team principals, Dr Vijay Mallya has spoken out in favour of the FIA's controversial new £40 million budget cap initiative, insisting without it 'the small independent teams will never be able to compete with those who have, in comparison, extraordinary budgets'.
Mallya's Force India operation is, of course, just such a small independent outfit, albeit one that is showing some signs of improvement this year, with Adrian Sutil heading for sixth place in the rain-lashed Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai last month before aquaplaning helplessly off the sodden track surface in the closing laps, and both the young German and experienced team-mate Giancarlo Fisichella successfully making it through to Q2 for the first time in the Silverstone-based squad's short history in qualifying for this weekend's Monaco Grand Prix around the narrow, tortuous streets of the glamorous Principality.
Mallya puts such progress down to a management reshuffle late last year and the team's technical tie-up with multiple world champions McLaren-Mercedes – but suggests that it can only continue if the cost cap is implemented as planned, despite the fervent opposition of some to the move, most notably Ferrari who have vowed to end six decades of uninterrupted participation in the top flight should it not be canned or altered.
“We have re-organised the team significantly and made some top management changes,” the Indian explained. “We have developed a car in a record period of just 120 days, because we signed up with McLaren-Mercedes in early November and produced a car that is reliable and has a good mechanical platform.
“We need to develop more on the aero front. We have not really had too much time to do either the development or of course testing following the in-season ban, but we are certainly a lot more competitive than we have ever been in the last couple of years. We showed it in Shanghai, we showed it in Australia and I am optimistic that we are gradually getting there.
“[In 2009] the racing is a lot more competitive [and] far more spectator-friendly. The smaller teams have had a chance to close the gap quite significantly compared to previous years. I have seen a couple of drivers who are actually quicker this year than last year which perhaps was not quite the intention, but having said that I think the 2009 regulations [have] provided a good platform and base.
“As you well know there are further discussions continuing on how to deal with 2010 and beyond, [and] every single business perhaps in the world under the current economic circumstances is being re-engineered and restructured with the focus to reduce costs. Why should Formula 1 be an exception? Force India is certainly well in favour in reducing the costs to levels that are affordable.
“Whether it is in the form of a cap, what that cap should be or whether there are progressive initiatives to arrive at an acceptable figure for all teams and the FIA is something we are currently working on – but clearly as far as Force India is concerned, whether you call it a budget cap or call it a targeted amount to be spent, that is very, very essential or else the small independent teams will never be able to compete with those who have, in comparison, extraordinary budgets.
“I think all teams want to make sure that everybody remains in Formula 1. I don't think anybody wants to see a team depart from Formula 1, Ferrari included, and I'm sure we will work out a satisfactory solution going forward amongst FOTA (Formula One Teams' Association) members, with the FIA [and] with FOM (Formula One Management – Bernie Ecclestone's commercial rights-holding organisation). I think everybody recognises the value of the sport, the importance of the sport [and] everybody's participation in the sport and certainly nobody wants to see any team leave, so I'm hoping that we will find a viable media that keeps Ferrari in.”