When billionaire Vijay Mallya, the Chairman of the United Breweries (UB) Group bought Spyker Formula One Team in October 2007, everyone thought it to be another of his extravagances. He along with Michiel Mol bought the Silverstone based team at a cost of € 88 Million and then renamed it as Force India F1 team, which was later accepted. Mallya retained the Spyker team management with Colin Kolles as Team Principal, Michiel Mol as Director and Mike Gascoyne as Chief Technology Officer. The team logo will have the Indian tricolour in it. On the technical front, the team will continue to use the customer Ferrari engines in 2008 and Spyker F8-VII chassis.
Force India F1 represents a growing interest among Indians, especially the youth, in motor sports and an increased Indian participation in F1, with Delhi all set to host it’s first F1 race in 2010. This also signals a continuing honeymoon of Indian companies of buying major stakes in foreign companies which started with the Mittal takeover of Arcelor in 2006 and the Tata-Corus deal. Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile, the International body for motor sports has also acknowledged the growing Indian presence in motor sports. India being a cricket-loving nation has not been a traditional market for motor sports. Pockets in India have had a dedicated fan base for other sports such as football in Bengal and Kerala and hockey in Punjab. So, this Indian entry into motor sports has opened new avenues for sports in India.However, there is little chance that the first Indian in F1, Narain Karthikeyan, will get a chance to race for the new team as the team management has already indicated that they will go by performances, rather than any other preference. Giancarlo Fisichella has reportedly been approached to fill up one of the places and the other place is already occupied by Adrian Sutil, who has his contract till 2008. The other probable players include Ralf Schumacher, Christian Klien and Vitantonio Liuzzi. The fortunes of the new team will be closely followed by sports enthusiasts and market analysts in India as a lot depends on the fortune of the team. Promotions for the new team have begun in grand fervor with Shahrukh ‘King’ Khan leading it. What remains to be seen is whether this spurt interest for the sport among the masses is able to sustain itself at the current rate. But then, we do have a new and energetic breed of drivers like Karun Chandhok and Armaan Ebrahim, who we hope, can be at par with their international counterparts, and make us proud.Anupam Dhar