Force India were expected to announce this weekend a technical alliance with McLaren and Mercedes for the 2009 season. The deal, that has been at the negotiation tables for some time now, would see the Silverstone-based outfit receive a complete engine, KERS and transmission package – it could even extend to a customer car depending on the regulation changes. However, Force India’s current contract with Ferrari needs to be dealt with first before any signatures can be put on McLaren headed paper.
Force India have been running Ferrari engine units this season and at times the back-row minnows haven’t looked too bad. However, team owner Vijay Mallya has big dreams for his squad and would like a more complete package for his engine technical department. Combined with the admission that Ferrari are behind schedule with their KERS development, it is understandable why Mallya might be looking elsewhere for a different partnership.
I have asked for the entire drive-train and KERS package from both potential suppliers. Ferrari are not very sure that they can give me the entire drive-train. Adrian Sutil suffered gearbox failure [in Shanghai].
At the end of the day what sense does it make for me to have a great engine, a great KERS system, and a gearbox that’s tentative? That’s why I said go for the whole hog, a good tried and proven and tested package from the top two teams. And that’s what I’m seeking to achieve. Vijay Mallya.
Mallya has said that he will reimburse Ferrari for any engines they have developed for Force India for next year, but McLaren insist on having the current agreement with the Scuderia dealt with before anything can be signed at their end.
Ferrari and us are very, very close friends, we have an excellent relationship. We have told them exactly what we want. We are in discussion.
They are aware that I have talked to McLaren, so everything is completely transparent from our point of view. And it is also recognised that if for whatever reason we need to part, it will be a very friendly parting. And that’s all agreed.
If they have incurred some costs developing engines for us for next year, we’ll talk about it. We’re certainly not going to be bloody minded. If they have incurred costs on my behalf, I think I owe it to them to offer to reimburse.
Beyond that I think there is a very positive and friendly spirit on either side, and so they will not be any acrimony or any wilful enforcement of a contract. Vijay Mallya.
Mallya’s approach and transparency is quite refreshing in Formula One, and at the end of the day, the Indian billionaire is a businessman who wants the best he can afford for his team. An alliance with McLaren would be good for Mercedes and the Indian market – Force India have a very strong fanbase – and it would relieve some pressure from Ferrari who also supply Scuderia Toro Rosso with power-plants. And if the rules permitted it, a customer car from McLaren would certainly be a welcome boost to Force India, although that side of any deal will have to wait until the regulations are confirmed.