New Delhi: With just 19 days to go for the inaugural Indian Grand Prix, Force India on Wednesday got a huge fillip as Sahara Group has agreed to pump in USD 100 million for the development of the Formula One team, which has been re-christened as Sahara Force India.
As per the agreement signed Wednesday between Sahara Group and liquor baron Vijay Mallya, Sahara Group will be issued fresh shares of Watson Limited, which owns the team.
Both Mallya and Sahara Group, headed by Subroto Sahara, will own 42.5 percent equity each in the team and the remaining 15 percent will be with the Michiel Mol family.
Michiel is a Dutch businessman and Director of the team.
From now on, Subroto Roy will be the Chairman of the team and Mallya will continue to be the team Principal and Managing Director.
"Sahara Group will invest approx USD 100 million into the team. The total capital of the company has increased enormously. None of us sold or bought equity and there will be only re-structuring. New shares will be sold," Mallya announced at a press conference.
"Total shares will be distributed in three places. I will have 42.5 percent equity share and Sahara Group another 42.5 percent and Michiel Mol family 15 percent," he added.
Subroto Roy said their aim is to take the team to newer heights.
"Now we have joined hands with Vijay Mallya. We have to discuss the plans so that the team reaches to the top as soon as possible," Subroto said.
Subroto hinted that he was interested in having an Indian driver in the team but also clarified that he was not in a hurry.
"In future, an Indian driver should be in the team but priority is the Indian team and not the drivers as of now. The result is also important," he said.
India has produced two F1 drivers thus far – Narain Karthikeyan and Karun Chandhok -- but none of the two has been given a chance to be with Force India.
Narain is presently associated with Spanish outfit Hispania and Karun is Test driver for Malaysia based Team Lotus.
Mallya said he has plans to bring in an Indian driver in the team but not immediately.
"I have never said that I am not interested in having Indian drivers. They do not suit me for whatever reason as of now. We are happy with the current team.
"We have selected 10 Indian guys from our talent hunt programme and trained them in Silverstone. The winner will be announced before the Indian Grand Prix and he will be trained further," Mallya said.
Mallya said initially he wanted Sahara's association with Force India just as a sponsor but the plan changed after Subroto Roy visited team's factory in Silverstone, UK.
"Just like any other team, I also wanted a sponsorship deal with Sahara Parivar but after seeing my factory he was impressed with the set up there and agreed to invest this USD 100 million instead of sponsorship," Mallya revealed.
"It is a huge money and will be invested in research and development, technology upgradation and new concepts and innovation which come from time to time like the KERS and wind diffuser. Team positions are decided by one hundredth of a second these days and this huge investment will help in improving the team position," he said.
Mallya had bought the Spyker Ferrari F1 Team in 2007, reportedly for about for 90 million euros. He then renamed the team as 'Force India' for the 2008 season.
The team is at the sixth position in the constructor's championships with 48 points in the current season.
Mallya also owns IPL team Royal Challengers.
On the other side, Sahara Group that has interests in financial services, real estate, media and hospitality, is a major promoter of sports in India.
Sahara owns the new IPL team Pune Warriors India and also sponsors India national cricket team. It had also supported the Indian national hockey team.
India will host its first Formula 1 Grand Prix on October 30, 2011 on a 5.14 km track, in Greater Noida built by Jaypee Sports International (JPSI).
First Published: Wednesday, October 12, 2011, 13:59