Vijay Mallya has explained the rationale behind his driver choice for Force India's debut Formula 1 campaign in 2008, after his newly-unveiled line-up featured no drivers from the team's home country.

Giancarlo Fisichella received an early birthday present - less than a week before he turns 35 years old - when he was confirmed alongside Adrian Sutil at the former Spyker outfit for the forthcoming season. The Italian's countryman Vitantonio Liuzzi will take up the position of test-driver.

"I had to choose the drivers very carefully," team owner Mallya stated, "because the team also needs to learn. The engineering team needs to benefit from the input of the drivers; it's not as if we have an engineering team that knows it all so we can just put an inexperienced driver in the car and say 'good luck'. We had to choose drivers to fit the purpose, and no Indian driver fits the bill."

That ruled out any possible inclusion of either Narain Karthikeyan or Karun Chandhok at the Silverstone-based concern, which knows it will have a mountain to climb if it is to hoist itself away from the back end of the grid in 2008.

Whilst Mallya was effusive about the potential of the latter - who recently impressed on his maiden F1 test for Red Bull Racing at Barcelona, and has been tipped to join Force India in either a test or race-driving capacity next year - he was somewhat less positive about Karthikeyan's chances of returning to the top flight, despite his breakthrough A1GP success for India in Zhuhai last month. The 30-year-old completed a full grand prix season for Force India's erstwhile guise as Jordan back in 2005, but quit his test-driving role with Williams at the end of the 2007 campaign.

"That's a long way off from the kind of performance I'm looking for in a Formula 1 car," Mallya said of Karthikeyan's Chinese success. "Chandhok is like my own son, but by his own admission he needs another year in GP2, which I think is the right way to go. It's not appropriate in my book to take somebody, put him in an F1 cockpit and expect results."

 

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