Vijay Mallya has revealed the motives behind Force India's decision to break ranks with the Formula One Teams' Association (FOTA) last week in signing up unconditionally to compete in the 2001 F1 World Championship – explaining that his 'duty' to his team and employees ultimately overrode any other considerations.
FIF1 became the second team to be suspended by FOTA – after Williams – when it lodged its unconditional entry for next year last Friday. The Silverstone-based squad – one of the few remaining true 'independent' outfits in the top flight – had initially joined in with the block FOTA entry, contingent upon FIA President Max Mosley abandoning his controversial £40 million budget cap initiative and agreeing terms on a new commercial rights-governing Concorde Agreement.
However, the tail-ending minnows subsequently elected to follow Williams' lead in going it alone, with team owner and chairman Mallya contending that – like the Grove-based concern with its pre-existing contractual obligations – he had no choice, given his binding agreements with banking partners.
“Basically Formula 1, like in the case of any other business, relies on its bankers to provide ongoing working capital support,” the Kingfisher Airlines billionaire told international news agency Reuters
. “As you would in any business, you go to a bank and demonstrate sources of income. The sources of income are from sponsorship and the disbursement of moneys...arising out of the television income.
“Both of these sources of income – which are sources of comfort for banks to lend money – would have been under threat if our entry was not accepted. Therefore, we were legally advised that Force India might breach its banking covenants if we did go down the route of a conditional entry and did not have an unconditional entry as always. All this was completely shared with FOTA.”
The 53-year-old Indian added that whilst he had asked FOTA to re-instate Force India amongst its members, he would not be unduly bothered if his request is refused – with his team now almost certainly set to be on the list of accepted 2010 applicants due to be published by the FIA on 12 June. Counting all present incumbents as well as potential newcomers, there are understood to be at least 20 competitors vying for just 13 spots on the starting grid next season.
“If they appreciate it (the reason), well and good,” Mallya concluded. “If they don't appreciate it, why should I lose sleep over it? I am doing what is good for Force India, first because I have a duty to comply with my legal obligations – I have a duty to my employees, to the team and to the company – and at the end of the day if it stops racing there is no business.”