Indian businessman and co-owner of the Formula One team Sahara Force India (in October 2011, Indian company Sahara India Pariwar purchased 42.5% of Force India F1’s shares at US$100 million) Vijay Mallya says he would be happy if his team lines up with the same drivers next year, but adds that he would agree to let 27-year-old Mexican racing driver Sergio Perez move to Scuderia Ferrari if the Maranello team decided to sign him for the 2018 Formula One championship. The former Indian billionaire made a rare paddock visit at Silverstone last weekend, as his passport has been seized over his legal dispute with Indian authorities.
It has already been reported that Force India is considering a name change for the next Formula 1 season in order to create a more international brand image, but one thing Vijay Mallya is not keen to change is its drivers. Esteban Ocon already has a contract for next year, while Sergio Perez should – in Mallya’s opinion – only take into consideration a move if Maranello comes calling: “I’m sure he is happy with us and we are happy with him. We hope to continue with him, but of course Ferrari is an amazing opportunity for any driver and we would not stand in his way. Otherwise, he is in the best hands with us, and I think he appreciates that.” – the Indian businessman said on Thursday, as reported by the leading German automobile magazine Auto Motor und Sport following his only public appearance of the season so far at the 2017 British Grand Prix, which took place last weekend.
Vijay Mallya is currently not allowed to travel elsewhere due to the seizing of his passport by India’s authorities in the midst of ongoing legal troubles – but has denied that this will lead to the sale of Force India. “There are no contacts. Over 10 years we have gained respect and had success. I would now like to enjoy it.” – he added.
Moving onto the matter of his legal predicament in India, Vijay Mallya explained that these would be fully addressed as he continues to oversee the team from the United Kingdom: “I will face my responsibilities in India. But until now there have been only allegations and not a single piece of hard evidence. But the team would survive without me, so I sleep peacefully as I know Force India is well-positioned.” – the Indian businessman concluded.