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Fernley: Force India, di Resta safe for 2013

15 October 2012

Paul di Resta will have a seat at Sahara Force India, and the team will be a part of the F1 fraternity, in 2013, despite the arrest warrant issued for owner Vijay Mallya at the weekend.

According to deputy team principal Robert Fernley, the Indian entrepreneur's legal problems will have no direct bearing on the future of the Silverstone-based team, and will not affect its chances of retaining both di Resta and current team-mate Nico Hulkenberg, despite the latter having been strongly linked to Sauber for next season. Mallya and other members of senior management at troubled Kingfisher Airlines have been the subject or arrest warrants after four cheques, worth in the region of $2m, had been bounced by the banks as there were insufficient funds to cover them.

Kingfisher, which appears prominently on the side of the Force India cars, has not turned a profit since it was launched in 2005 and is currently defaulting on payments to airports, banks, staff and the tax authorities, but Fernley insists that its latest situation will have no direct bearing on the team.

"I don't think it will go anywhere," he told Reuters during the Korean Grand Prix weekend, "It is an offence in India to issue a cheque without the funds being there, for sure, and why it was done, I don't know. It is so far below Vijay, he wouldn't have a clue what is going on anyway. I think there's been a request for warrants, [but] I don't think they've been issued. I am 100 per cent sure they haven't been served.

"I'm saddened by the stories, because I think it's probably political mischief that's gone on in India.Vijay is obviously a target at the moment, [but] it doesn't affect the team at all. It has no bearing whatsoever. For some reason, in F1, we are captivated by our own self-importance [but], in Vijay's world, the F1 programme is a relatively small entity."

Mallya was not apparently scheduled to be at either of the grands prix in Japan or Korea, but Fernley is confident that he will be back on the pit-wall for his home event in India - an addition to the F1 calendar that he has helped champion since it was first mooted - next weekend.

With the team principal absent, there has been no announcement regarding drivers for 2013, and both di Resta and Hulkenberg have been linked to moves elsewhere after strong seasons for Force India this year. Although doors have closed at both McLaren and Mercedes since the Singapore race - with Sergio Perez being signed up to replace Lewis Hamilton - Felipe Massa's unresolved situation at Ferrari continues to see both drivers linked to Maranello. Massa, however, appears to have strengthened his hold on another year in red, effectively ending di Resta's options, but Hulkenberg continues to be mentioned in the same breath as the vacancies at Sauber, possibly teaming up with GP2 graduate Esteban Gutierrez in an all-new line-up at Hinwil [see separate story].

“We have served our options on the drivers and now they have a period of time before they come back to us," Fernley revealed to the Sun newspaper, "We don't expect any changes and would like it to be business as usual, because we have two brilliant drivers."


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