Force India has announced the launch of a new driver academy aiming to find an Indian Formula One driver of the future.
The Force India F1 Team Academy will look to identify Indian racing talent but will also provide vocational training for Indian's with an interest in pursuing a motorsport career and will also provide access to academic programmes related to the motorsport field.
“The setting up of the Force India F1 Team Academy is a historic milestone in the sports arena in India,” team principal Vijay Mallya said. “It marks the first time that anyone has ever embarked on such an ambitious programme in India. Our goal is to create a pool of talent and groom aspirants who show exceptional promise by providing them with the necessary corporate funding and support.
“Our programmes will provide a clear professional career path in motorsport so that one day our selected candidates are able to represent India in the international arena and hopefully bring glory to the nation.”
The initial stage of the programme has been dubbed the 'Hunt for 1 from a Billion' and will provide children between the ages of 14 and 17 with the chance to take part in karting at reduced rates at a series of locations around the country, with the top 14 drivers from each city going on to a national final.
Ten people will then be selected to go forward to a week long course at Silverstone where they will face a series of tasks before three winners are announced at the inaugural Indian Grand Prix in October.
The overall winner will then compete in a UK series and will then be guided in their career through the Future Champions Programme, with the two runners-up securing slots in a competitive Indian racing championship and in a programme of karting tuition.
“The Force India F1 Team Academy was conceived with a vision to inspire young Indians who have talent but have so far had no proper opportunity or serious platform to showcase their innate abilities,” Mallya continued. “I hope that this Academy will give young Indians, who have the necessary passion and drive, a serious chance to show promise and an opportunity to excel, so that we can develop their talent and grow it by channelling it properly over the long-term.
“If the Academy is able to place even one Indian on the F1 grid, then all the effort would have been worthwhile. I would like to thank our partners ExxonMobil for sharing our vision as together we groom future world champions and support them on every step of the long and winding journey that will ultimately prepare them for the rigours and demands of F1.”
So far, two Indian drivers have appeared on the F1 grid in the shape of Karun Chandhok and Narain Karthikeyan.