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Sahara Force India keen to remain unchanged
13 September 2012
Despite interest from other teams for 2013, Sahara Force India team owner Vijay Mallya insists that he is keen to retain his current driver pairing of Paul di Resta and Nico Hulkenberg.
The Indian has previously said that he would not stand in the way of either driver moving on, but clearly values their ability and contribution to this year's campaign, in which Sahara Force India sits seventh overall. With the seats currently occupied by Michael Schumacher and Felipe Massa under scrutiny, Mercedes and Ferrari have long been connected to both drivers, with the recent uncertainty surrounding Lewis Hamilton's future has added McLaren to the mix in the past couple of weeks, but Mallya insists he would rather hold on to his talent that see it depart.
“I have confirmed to both my drivers that I want to retain them, and that's it,” Mallya told veteran F1 journalist Adam Cooper, “I will do whatever I have to do to retain my drivers. I've not been approached by anybody, contrary to all the speculation, [but] the fact that their names are mentioned only shows that my trust and faith in them is not misplaced.”
Wisely, Mallya has both Hulkenberg and di Resta under contract beyond the 2012 season, and the consummation of any interest elsewhere could prove lucrative for the Silverstone squad. Third driver, Jules Bianchi, meanwhile, has also been mentioned as an outsider for Massa's seat, but is a part of Ferrari's development squad and is on loan to Force India this season.
Whether SFI's hand would be weakened by its technical partnerships with McLaren and Mercedes - it has drivetrain technology from the former and engines from the latter - remains to be seen but, at the moment, suggestions that either di Resta or Hulkenberg could be on the move remain rumours. di Resta appointing the same management team as Jenson Button has heightened speculation that he could be first in line to succeed Hamilton should the 2008 world champion head for Mercedes, while his own links to the Three Pointed Star - for whom he won the DTM title prior to his F1 graduation - has kept his name in the frame should Schumacher head back into retirement. Both drivers have been listed as potential successors to Massa, with Ferrari expected to look for someone who can support - but not necessarily out-perform - current points leader Fernando Alonso.
"I don't know [what's going to happen], because I don't hold the key to it," di Resta recently said of the driver market, "Obviously, it has become a year where there are possibly three teams that might be changing, and it's always nice to have speculation, to see the interest. But it's something I can't let my brain run away with. I'm in the car [at Monza] this weekend and expected to do a job. That is going to be the focus."
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