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Mallya open to McLaren `advice` on drivers?

Force India F1 team owner Dr Vijay Mallya has admitted that McLaren may have a say in more then just the supply of a complete drivetrain and KERS system, with drivers and senior personnel rumoured to be open to influence from Woking.

Simon Roberts has already been confirmed as moving from McLaren Applied Technologies to become Force India's chief operating officer, and the Silverstone team could yet see its driver line-up tinkered with, despite Mallya insisting for much of the 2008 campaign that he would be happy to continue with the partnership of veteran Giancarlo Fisichella and coming man Adrian Sutil.

Having dispensed with both managing director Colin Kolles - a big supporter of Sutil's - and chief technical officer Mike Gascoyne at the time of announcing its 'divorce' from erstwhile engine partner Ferrari late last week, Mallya may be more malleable when it comes to his driver pairing, with Mercedes protégé Paul di Resta and long-time McLaren tester Pedro de la Rosa both having been mentioned as possible replacements since the two teams inked a five-year collaboration deal on Monday.

Although the Indian, who has insisted that his aim is to turn the backmarker into a competitive team as soon as possible, was not prepared to change tack when speaking about the partnership, he did reveal that he would not object to McLaren putting names forward for evaluation.

"I haven't gone into any details on drivers yet," he admitted to Reuters, "[but] my interest is this team and it has to go where I want it to go. I am going to do whatever it takes. I have taken some very hard decisions in the last week for this team. There are no emotions involved.

"[McLaren] will recommend what they believe to be in the best interests of my team and I have to decide. And I would be hard pressed to ignore their advice. However, the first thing is building the car. If we don't have a car, then there's no point having a driver. It's already pushing the envelope a little bit, so we need to focus on the car. The driver comes next and we will have these conversations."

McLaren CEO Martin Whitmarsh, having helped to oversee Lewis Hamilton's world championship success this season, admitted that McLaren would be helping to push Force India in the direction it thinks it needs to go to achieve Mallya's aims.

"There's nothing off-bounds in this partnership," he said, "We will make proposals and recommendations that we think are enhancing the prospect of good performance from this team. [Mallya] would expect us, as specialists and professionals in this field, to be making all of the recommendations that are necessary to ensure that we go forward."

Force India - the latest incarnation of the team founded by Eddie Jordan that faded from racewinner to also-ran under the successive ownership of Midland and Spyker - was the only team not to score a point in the 2008 world championship, although Sutil appeared on course to open the account when he was removed from fourth place by Kimi Raikkonen in Monaco.

It amicably terminated its technical partnership with Ferrari last week over concerns that the Italian operation was not sufficiently placed to offer the KERS technology that will be permissible in F1 next season, confirming a new deal with McLaren that has been rumoured since the Belgian GP in September.

Related Pictures

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FreddyFreeloader - Unregistered

November 11, 2008 3:22 PM

Looks like quite a cosy long-term arrangement between Mclaren and Force India. I think it makes sense, Mclaren will make lots of money fom this and get double to the amount of track and engine data, force India get a fast-track fast car. I might work out well.

Robsy - Unregistered

November 12, 2008 10:49 AM

Very interesting. Seems to me to be strategically a revival of the Mclaren 'B' idea that would have put Prodrive to the grid. The only big difference is FIF1 produce their own chassis. We may see more of this kind of thing - with Max having bounced the manufacturers into selling cut-price engines, they need to be getting something else from the deal. Maybe we'll see circulating drivers in the FIF1 - no challenge there for a WDC, but plenty of chances for good constructor points + income. McL may feel that having their own midfield mixer would help control the influence of Renault etc, and also compensate for Ferrari being stronger in the constructors competition.

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