Dr Vijay Mallya has admitted that Force India's first full season of Formula 1 in 2008 has been 'erratic' and 'flattened out' over the second half – but he vowed the Silverstone-based squad would come out fighting with 'a truly competitive race car' in 2009.
Having bought out Midland F1 towards the end of the 2007 campaign, predictions were that Force India would take a leap up the pecking order this year but, despite a number of starring performances – from Adrian Sutil in Monaco and particularly Giancarlo Fisichella, in Singapore and Brazil – that progress has never consistently crystallised and points have proved frustratingly elusive.
“We've had a year that's been pretty erratic,” Mallya confessed. “We started out pretty well and then we flattened out. We improved again and flattened out yet again, and since the European Grand Prix we've just stayed flat.
“I did, however, say that following the introduction of the seamless-shift gearbox we would not do any further major development of the 2008 car, and that all the focus would be on 2009. Perhaps this is also reflecting that, but I'm a firm believer that one should look ahead and not behind.
“You certainly learn lessons from past history, but you can't keep moaning and groaning over spilt milk. I'm very confident that we will put on more than a decent show in 2009.”
Looking to next season, the F1 rumour mill has suggested for some weeks that Force India is set to switch engine-supplier from Ferrari to Mercedes-Benz, with McLaren KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovery System) technology and further technical support – that could even stretch as far as chassis and aerodynamic parts – all coming as part of the package.
Though Mallya had previously hinted that an announcement could be made at Interlagos last weekend, no news was forthcoming – with the understanding that the Indian also wants a complete transmission to be included in the deal a possible sticking point.
“I am in active discussion with McLaren and Ferrari,” the Kingfisher Airlines billionaire acknowledged. “I have asked for the entire drivetrain and KERS package from both potential suppliers. Ferrari are not very sure that they can give me the entire drivetrain.
“Adrian suffered gearbox failure in Shanghai. At the end of the day what sense does it make for me to have a great engine, a great KERS system, and a gearbox that's tentative? That's why I said go for the whole hog, a good tried and proven and tested package from the top two teams. That's what I'm seeking to achieve.”