Force India F1 team owner Dr Vijay Mallya has hinted that his squad will feature an unchanged line-up next season, as it attempts to finally overcome the handicap its began life with and become at least a midfield challenger.

Speaking in an interview with the official Formula One website, Mallya said that both Giancarlo Fisichella and Adrian Sutil have attributes that make them valuable to the Silverstone-based team, despite test and reserve pilot Tonio Liuzzi having turned in solid performances on his mid-week outings in the VJM01.

"I have two good drivers and you must understand that, for Force India, my needs are somewhat unique," Mallya insisted, "The experience of Giancarlo is invaluable to me and Adrian has lots of talent. I think he is improving race by race, becoming more consistent, so I am quite happy with them.

"More importantly, they have a great attitude that will help me to face the challenges of tomorrow and I think they will be very satisfied driving the 2009 car, which I personally am sure will be a significant improvement - and a big surprise."

With Fisichella retiring in five races so far this season, and Sutil failing to see the chequered flag in seven of his eleven outings, Force India has yet the trouble the scorers - the only team to do so - but Mallya remains phlegmatic as he heads towards the final phase of his first year as an F1 team owner.

"I will use the time [between Budapest and Valencia] to really reflect on what we have achieved in the first half of the season," he noted, "It is very clear that, in the early part of the season, we made good progress compared to other teams and then we slowed down a little, because maybe other teams made more progress than us.

"To be very honest and frank, we invested a lot of time, resource and money to improve the team during the 2008 season, even though time has been very short. One realises how tough and competitive Formula One really is - this is the pinnacle of technology and performance and it reinforces the challenge that I have before me for 2009 - to be really competitive. I am quite optimistic, however, that my experience so far has pointed us very correctly into the right direction.

"I know now precisely what I am up against, I know precisely the challenge before me, so I can plan better. I feel happy that maybe I learned the hard way, but it is good to learn! So 2009 will see a much more competitive Force India team."

Mallya admits that, despite hoping to make the team an instant midfield contender, he had to overcome unforeseen hurdles put in place by previous owners of an operation that went through four identities in as many years.

"What I have realised is that I am not only catching up from last season, but catching up from the last three seasons," he admitted, "And we have caught up, even though Formula One has become so competitive.

"In a way, that half a second means a lot - a tenth of a second means a lot - which was never the case before. Even in such an environment, Force India has clearly demonstrated that we have caught up and improved. Whether it is enough or not is a different issue.

"One also has to realise that in Formula One things don't happen from one season to the next. Even Ferrari, McLaren and Williams had - and still have - their ups and downs. It can take years to actually start performing. Take the case of Toyota.... People should not expect miracles from me in the first season, but I promise a good show in 2009!"


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