Force India owner Vijay Mallya has reacted with surprise at learning from the F1 paddock grapevine that he is supposed to be attempting to offload his shares in the team.
The Indian businessman acquired the former Jordan, Midland and Spyker outfit in 2007 and returned it to the position of above-average midfield runner and regular pointscorer, but rumours surfaced at Suzuka which suggested that he was looking to get out of F1 and pass the team on.
According to respected F1 journalist Joe Saward, Mallya is close to selling his shares in Force India team to another Indian businessman, Subrata Roy, who already has extensive interests in various sports, including national priorities cricket and hockey through his Sahara consortium. However, Mallya, who recently shutdown the budget arm of his Kingfisher Airlines operation in a bid to improve profitability, felt sufficiently aggrieved by the speculation to issue the following statement at the end of the opening day of action in Japan.
"I was shocked to read a media report that I am selling the Force India Formula One team," he claimed, "This is completely untrue and without any basis whatsoever.
"I take great pride in having been able to put an Indian team on the F1 world championship grid and have worked very hard to greatly improve the performance of the team. Now that India is finally on the F1 world championship calendar, my commitment to Force India only gets even stronger. As team principal, I will continue to run the team and I have no plans whatsoever to exit."
The timing of the rumour does indeed appear a little odd, with the inaugural Indian GP just three weeks away, and Force India having launched its drive to find national racing talent to follow in the footsteps of current F1 reserves Narain Karthikeyan and Karun Chandhok, but it will be interesting to monitor developments in the run-up to round 17 of the 2011 season.