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Mallya taking nothing for granted in top five bid

5 July 2013

Force India team principal Vijay Mallya admits that he is not yet allowing himself to think that the Silverstone squad has secured its place in F1's top five.

With Paul di Resta and Adrian Sutil pulling regular points finishes out of a competitive VJM06, Force India has capitalised on McLaren's woeful start to 2013 to claim 'best of the rest' honours behind F1's current top four – Red Bull, Ferrari, Mercedes and Lotus – but Mallya is all too aware that things could turn around very quickly, and that the points cushion between his team and McLaren is not impregnable.

“We are now 22 points ahead of McLaren - they are on 37, and we have 59 – and it's all very well to say we are widening the gap, but McLaren is such a formidable team, with such a fantastic track record, they can wipe out that entire gap by winning just one race,” he pointed out, “I would not take it for granted that we will hang on to fifth, but we will make every attempt.”

With just a week between the first of the team's 'home' races, at Silverstone, and the German Grand Prix, it is unlikely that McLaren can make such a significant step forward in performance, while Mallya remains confident that di Resta and Sutil will continue to be a threat for the top ten.

“We expect to carry our form into this weekend,” he confirmed, “In the last few races, we've seen our speed and we've managed to get Paul into the points on three occasions from the back of the grid. It's a home race for Adrian, a track he enjoys, and we will go there determined to continue our run of finishes with two cars in the points.”

di Resta has finished in the points in seven of the eight races to date – the anomaly being a DNF in Malaysia – but Mallya no doubt knows that his haul could have been better than the 36 points he has accrued so far, given that he has twice failed to progress beyond Q1 and, at Silverstone, a fantastic fifth on the grid was negated when his car came in underweight at scrutineering.

“The qualifying penalty was most disappointing for us,” Mallya reflected, “We celebrated our 100th grand prix in Montreal, we know the rules, and we respect the rules.

“After FP3, we weighed Paul and the car and everything was fine. So to find out after qualifying that the weight was 1.5kgs below the minimum was truly a shock. We made our representations to the stewards, we said there could be an error, and asked if we could be given the benefit of the doubt, [but] the stewards decided to penalise Paul and we accepted it - and started at the back of the grid.”

Despite the setback, di Resta raced through the field to claim ninth at the chequered flag, while team-mate Sutil ran as high as third during the race before fading in the closing stages to come home seventh.

“I'm quite satisfied with seventh and ninth,” Mallya insisted, aware that only Daniel Ricciardo's Toro Rosso, in eighth, was the only interloper ahead of his cars, “Paul had to come in for a new nose after he clipped Nico [Hulkenberg], so it was a bit of a messy race, but to start at the back and come home in the points was a great effort.

“At the last safety car, we left Adrian out and tried to push it to the end: it was only in the last few laps that he got overtaken by the Ferraris, but that's the way racing goes.

“Overall, we qualified fifth and seventh, which we were obviously very pleased about, and, notwithstanding Paul's penalty, both cars finished in the points. That proves we have a competitive car.”

Force India's ranking aside, the main talking point of the Nurburgring weekend is likely, once again, to be tyres, with Pirelli bringing a revised product to Germany in a bid to avoid a repeat of the dramatic happenings at Silverstone.

Although Force India was not affected at the British race, di Resta had previously suffered a delamination in practice in Barcelona, and Mallya admits that he cannot really oppose the introduction of a new tyre, despite having resisted similar moves earlier in the year.

“If the FIA decides that, for the whole sport, it's a safety issue and something needs to change, that's why the FIA is there, that's the job of the FIA,” he reasoned, “They have the technical resources to determine if it's a safety issue, and that something needs to be done....”


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