19 December 2013
Mallya: Exciting driver pairing reflects Force India F1 attitude
Vijay Mallya says that he is excited by his 2014 F1 driver pairing, claiming that it is in keeping with the hunger that exists within the Silverstone-based squad.
Force India team owner Vijay Mallya insists that signing an all-new driver line-up for 2014 is indicative of the squad's determination to continue punching above its weight in the F1 world championship.
While admitting that he would have been happy to retain either Paul di Resta and/or Adrian Sutil next season, Mallya admits that he could not afford to pass up two drivers of the class of Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg, with the pair coming in at the start of a new set of technical regulations.
“I could have retained either one of our existing drivers, but … I consulted my other team members and they all said that we've got a new car and a new set of regulations, so let's get a new set of drivers who have got fire in their bellies and are really hungry,” the Indian explained, “Sergio and Nico fit that bill. I'm very excited.”
Although there were times when neither driver appeared to be free to switch teams for 2014, Mallya says that he was determined to land both as soon as they became available.
“My thought process was very simple. When Sergio drove for Sauber he certainly caught my eye. He was very quick and I guess that was noticed by McLaren. I wasn't very surprised - they are a world-class team, a very big team and, if they signed up Sergio Perez, they obviously saw something in him. I had also seen this but, well before I could even approach him, he had gone to McLaren. Which driver in Formula One wouldn't want to go to McLaren?
“I've always had my eye on Nico Hulkenberg. I told him as early as Malaysia 'Nico, if you decide to change from Sauber, you better come back home'. He said 'alright, I promise you. If I decide to change, my first option will be with you'. He stuck to his word - he told me he wanted to move and I said fine. I'm sure Nico talked to other teams but, at the end of the day, true to his word, I signed him up. I feel happy because he's driving for me.”
The signings also buck the trend among midfield and back-of-the-grid teams of driver signings based on sponsorship and finances.
“I don't believe in the pay driver concept,” Mallya insisted, “I've had many opportunities in the past where I was offered pay drivers - I was offered a lot of money - and I said absolutely not. That's not the philosophy of Sahara Force India.
“I will not compromise the quality of drivers for money. I will not let down all of my people in Silverstone who are so passionate about designing and building a competitive race car and then compromise the car on the track by taking a driver who is not the very best, simply because he brings money to the table. That's something I just will not do - it's against my basic philosophy.”
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