Force India Formula One boss Vijay Mallya has confirmed that his team is hoping to unveil its new challenger in the south of Spain just weeks before the 2009 season kicks off in Melbourne.
Speaking to the Indian media at the launch of the inaugural Force India Formula One calendar in New Delhi, Mallya revealed that the team was on course to meet its deadlines for the VJM02, and that he expected to see the car roll out on to the track at Jerez for the first time in early March, before completing a brief period of testing and development before it is shipped off to the opening round.
"The new car is under construction," the millionaire businessman insisted, "It will have McLaren gearbox and Mercedes engine, which is a big change from VJM 01, and we are going to unveil it at Jerez in early March."
Despite appearing to push the boundaries in terms of development time before Melbourne, Mallya is confident that Force India will be able to move off the bottom of the constructors' championship thanks to its new five-year partnership with McLaren.
"We will have six-day test, which I think is enough," he said of the pre-season plans, "Besides, the facilities at our Silverstone factory are quite up to the mark. I think we would be ready for the first race, [and] I'm confident we can be in the midfield."
Force India failed to score a point in its first season after Mallya assumed the entry previously held by a procession of teams comprising Jordan, Midland and Spyker, but its owner is confident enough in his ability to turn things around that he is reported to have made a bid for the now defunct Honda team, ostensibly to gain access to the Brackley outfit's technical facilities.
Despite that, however, the Indian is delighted to see the teams reach an agreement with the FIA to slash the cost of competing in the top flight, hoping that it will provide a more level playing field on which to compete with Force India's direct rivals. The agreement not only restricts spending on technical advances but will also dramatically cut the amount of testing allowed by competitors with immediate effect.
Although tipped to take on one of McLaren's test drivers as part of his squad for 2009, Mallya has stuck with the existing partnership of veteran Giancarlo Fisichella and now third-year driver Adrian Sutil, with Tonio Liuzzi providing back-up for a second season.