This week Dr Vijay Mallya has been reflecting on a good opening race for his Force India team, as Adrian Sutil qualified in the top ten and Tonio Liuzzi finished in ninth place, collecting two valuable points.
Sutil’s race was ruined by first corner contact with the Renault of Robert Kubica. The German’s afternoon then became a scrap at the back of the field as he put in a charging recovery drive, setting the second fastest lap in the process.
When asked about his views on the weekend’s action, Mallya said he was delighted with the team’s start. “I’m obviously very pleased, despite what happened to Adrian at the start. For this team, given our history and background, to score points in the first race is quite a remarkable effort. But I think even more so two things have made a very significant impression on me. First is our race pace. I think that’s a huge statement for a relatively small team like us. The second is there’s been so much spoken about Tonio. He’s not just proved himself, but I think he drove beautifully. He preserved his tyres well, he was quick, and he brought the car home in the points. So all credit goes to Tonio.”
Mallya also praised his other driver, Adrian Sutil, after a good qualifying performance and a difficult race. “Adrian was unlucky. Nevertheless, he did an outstanding job in qualifying, and of course in the previous practice sessions he was always very quick, always very confident. Having dropped down to 21st place to work his way up to 12th position was a great achievement. He also made the soft tyres last for longer than we would otherwise have expected and he also clocked the second fastest lap time, behind Alonso. I think overall I have every reason to be pleased about the team’s performance. And we have another update coming for Melbourne.”
The team principal is aware how important starting a race in the top ten is if Force India are to be consistently challenging for points. “You’ve got to be amongst the top 10 to score points to begin with. With the big four – McLaren, Ferrari, Mercedes and Red Bull – for me to say that we will run ahead of them sounds ambitious. But to be knocking on their doors and ahead of the rest is something I can be very pleased about.”
Vijay Mallya says this season’s goal is to score points regularly, just one step in his long term plan for the team’s development. “The way we are today I think we’re very competitive, and everything is going to plan. In 2009 I said we should score some points occasionally, and we scored 13, which was respectable. This year I said we should score points regularly.
“We have opened our account in the first race and I think the opportunity is wide open for us to now score points regularly. I wouldn’t be surprised if we could target the odd podium or two. And next year we should hopefully strongly target podium finishes.”
Speaking about the new regulations this season, Mallya would like to wait a couple of races before coming to any conclusions about the refuelling ban. “It’s hard to tell from one race and everybody was faced with a guessing game. We didn’t know how long the tyres would last in the race, and there was no data to really base any proper judgement on. We need to give the regulations a chance to prove themselves and for people to learn how to use them. To change everything after just one race is a knee-jerk reaction, let’s see how it goes in Australia and Malaysia and make an informed decision about whether we do need to react to improve the Formula 1 show. If we do then at least we have more information to make an proper call.”