India's desire to have a stronghold in Formula One before it presses ahead with a grand prix-spec circuit appears set to be satiated with news that billionaire Vijay Mallya is close to a deal to buy the Spyker team.

According to CNBC-TV18, sources claim that the deal for Mallya to take over the financially struggling team is imminent, with approval for the deal apparently already passed by the Spyker board. The team has had a troubled history since being sold by Eddie Jordan. Picked up by Russian steel magnate Alex Shnaider's Midland Group, the team was then sold on to Spyker, which was looking for a marketing outlet for its road car company.

However, with that company running into financial problems of its own, Spyker is unable to pay a $15m instalment owed to Midland by 15 September, and still has more than that waiting to be paid. Although Shnaider intimated last week that he may be prepared to step in and help out - even possibly buying the team back temporarily - Mallya's bid appears to have bailed Spyker out.

Mallya owns both India's Kingfisher Airlines and the United Breweries Group, and could use a range of brands to rename the team, even though it is expected that Michiel Mol will remain at its head and much of the make-up of the crew will continue to be employed at Silverstone. The Kingfisher brand will also apparently continue to sponsor rival Toyota.

Whatever the detail, Mallya will become the first Indian to take control of an F1 team, possibly paving the way for Narain Karthikeyan to return to the fray in a race capacity. India is also among those countries on the short-list for future grands prix, despite several reported false starts.

"As far as I am concerned, nothing is impossible," Mallya was quoted as saying at the recent Turkish GP, "Part and parcel of bringing F1 to India is to also have an Indian company involved in F1. In what form or shape, I am not going to disclose as yet."

It appears that the cat may just have escaped the bag....



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