Should Force India have Indian drivers?

Posted on Author Keith Collantine

Adrian Sutil, Force India F1 Team, Bahrain, 2008, 470150

Hoshiyar had this to say about Adrian Sutil in a recent discussion:

To have Force India without an Indian pilot is ridiculous. Narain [Karthikeyan] can take the bull by its horn and come in front of fisi each and every time. To not even have tried him for the race seat?ů‘ťľ?™ its clear where Vijay Mallya?ů‘ťľ‘šůs priority lie – making money. He?ů‘ťľ‘šůs just playing with the sentiments of people here.

Do you think Force India should have an Indian F1 driver?

Despite the team’s name all of Force India’s drivers are European: Adrian Sutil (Germany), Christian Klien (Austria), Giancarlo Fisichella and Vitantonio Liuzzi (Italy)

I don’t think the team should have an Indian driver just because they’re an Indian team. But even if they were to, the question is who?

Narain Karthikeyan is an obvious candidate, but he’s had a chance at F1 and got dropped – first by Jordan in 2005, and then from his Williams test seat last year. He’s struggled to make an impression in A1 Grand Prix where the competition is much weaker, and I don’t think his nationality should give him a free pass into F1.

Karun Chandhok has been tipped for a move to Force India, possibly as soon as next year. He won one round of the GP2 series last year but still shows a lot of immaturity in his driving. He spun away a potential win in the GP2 Asia support race at the Malaysian Grand Prix while the field was behind the safety car.

So I’m not convinced Force India needs an Indian driver. But what I find odd is that the team is called Force India and yet is based in Northamptonshire…

Force India F1 Team information

31 comments on “Should Force India have Indian drivers?”

  1. I agree that they don’t need an indian driver just because they are an indian team. But I can understand how they feel over there… I think brasilians would be really pissed off if someone started a F1 team called "Go Brasil" with no brasilian drivers at all. And I bet the english gentlemen of this forum would very much ridicule a team called "Force England" with no english drivers… Then again, Brasil’s and England’s drivers tradition is much different from India’s, but it all has to start somewhere.
    I still believe they will have their indian driver when the time is right, but until then, it is indeed a weird situation for indians.

  2. I don’t think they should.

    Ferrari is not ‘Force Italy’, but it’s almost like that, and they haven’t had an italian driver for years! and they are the most successful team in F1 history and specially in this decade.

    Also, India is not a country know by their drivers qualities… Only Narain reached F1 and he was outpaced by Tiago Monteiro very often if not always… If you have, say, someone like Kubica, who’s the first and only Pole driver, then i would agree… but Narain isn’t Kubica… He’s a consistent driver and that’s all…

  3. I agree that just coz the team’s name is Force India it should have an Indian driver, that is just dumb.¬† F1 is the epitome of racing and you just cant let bias rule over development.

    As far as Indian drivers, Narian is pretty good.  The problem according to me is his age and the fact that he messed up the opportunities Jordan gave him.  I dont think Tiago was better in the Jordan but he did manage a podium in the famous US Gp of 2005.  Narian has almost single handedly taken the Indian A1 gp team a couple of notches.  He even won a race this season.

    Wrt to what Force India has to do, I think the idea of an experienced driver and a young but formidable driver is a perfect combo.  Look at the way Renault came from the back of the field with Trulli and Alonso.  It that point of view Fisi and Sutil seem like very good choices according to me.

  4. If Narain Karthikeyan is the best driver India has to offer, then unequivocally no!

    To let nationalism blind Force India would be a great shame. Alain Prost tried to build a French superteam and he drove the Ligier team into the ground in the process.

  5. I thought Force India was called that in part because as a logo Force India is like "F1", check it.

    I’m probably wrong but hey, cute little observation.

  6. Why does it have to be a driver?

    Why can’t a team develop engineers, race strategist or all the other careers in F1? I think as it is most of the "peons" in F1 are English. I would like to see more diverse paddocks.

  7. Also, Emerson Fittipaldi ruined his last five years of Formula 1 racing when he tried to make a brazilian team, and even though he got slightly better results than Prost’s namesake team, he never won a race again…

    For this, I agree with¬†all of you:¬†nationalism is a good thing as long as it doesn’t blind you… So, Mallya is showing how clever he is to wait until an indian¬†driver worth of the seat¬†comes up… I’m sure that, when he or she comes, he’ll be happy to give him or her the opportunity…

  8. Ok… first up… I think it is a big enough deal that there is an Indian team on the grid… and that simply means that if by some freak chance of nature Force India was to win a grand prix (Monaco anyone?)… The Indian national anthem would be heard for the first time on an F1 Podium… if you ask me that would be a big deal… coming to the comment made by Hoshiar… I think the international nature of F1 is totally lost in that comment… you want to see Indian drivers racing for an Indian team… then you should be watching A1 and not F1…

  9. Robert McKay
    13th April 2008, 21:44

    If Narain’s so good then how come his mediocre brother keeps turning up in A1GP? I’m sorry, I’ve only seen¬†a couple of good¬†performances from him, maximum. He might not be a bad driver, but there’s nothing they’d get from him that Fisi is not already giving them. Fisi is one of F1’s greatest enigmas – did very little in a top car but always gets more than he ought to¬†out of a tail-end car.

    I don’t really see the point of the Indian connection, other than for money. An Indian driver in an "Indian" car would make Mallya a lot more money, I suspect – to belittle him for taking the best driver to push the team forward the most instead of cashing in on the obvious nationalism link is faintly ridiculous. I think Mallya’s doing a considerably better job than Midland and Spyker did, and good luck to the man – it’s his money he’s putting up.

  10. Hello Keith,
    Correct me if i’m wrong, but as i understand it, ForceIndia is still partially owned by Michiel Mol (ex-Spyker) so it’s not 100% an Indian team.

  11. I’m not sure about that, but certainly they’ve got a $120m budget this year thanks to Mallya and he’s calling the shots.

  12. werner – you are correct -from the Force India site –
    Michiel currently co owns the Force India Formula 1 Team with Dr Vijay Mallya.

  13. Bruce McLaren
    14th April 2008, 1:00

    I don’t think it is fair to say "an Indian team mustn’t dictate which pilots get seats based on race¬†– that is biased". Folks have been buying seats with their advertising cash for as long as I can remember (and fortunately less is happening this year (if at all?)) – why can’t you accept people ‘buying’ a seat with their nationality? I think it is scum, but to think for 1 minute that seats are handed out to the fastest and most deserving is naive and foolish. Skill has more to do with your PR/management team than it does in your racecraft (Ralph, anyone?).

  14. Wait until an Indian GP hits the schedule for pressure on Mallya to sign an Indian driver. I’d rather see a new driver than Narain, we know he can’t cut it. When the force India deal was imminent Narain acted like it was inevitable he’d get a seat. Good for the Dr. that he hasn’t caved to the pressure…..yet.

  15. I may be wrong, but I could swear I remember Mallya making some comments in our favorite publication- F1 Racing- that he was comitted to putitng an Indian driver on the grid for Force India, but would seek out one and develop them from karting in same manner that McLaren supported Hamilton over his pre-F1 years.

    I think it would be a huge marketing/PR coup if Force India could do this- Mallya is seemlingly seeking to grow the popularity of F1 in India, and putting an Indian driver in a race seat will obviously help this along. In the meantime, I think he’d be best off to stick with his current drivers and let them develop the team and gain some points. I’m sure that if he brings along his Indian star and has a quality car/team, he’ll go alot further than sticking one of the drivers mentioned above in the current car and having the Indian people see the team at the back of the pack.

  16. Hoshiyar, I’ve got two words for you: Karun Chandhok.
    Sutil will go one way or the other by the end of this season: either to a better team (if he returns to form) or to another formulae (i.e. out of F1 if things stay the way they are).¬† Expect Vijay to give¬†Karun a shot beside Fisi.¬† That should be a good test of the youngster’s form.

  17. NO. It’s bad enough that they named a team after a country, bringing with it all the associated jingoism.

    If this (http://www.rediff.com/sports/2008/apr/07raja.htm) is what comes of finishing 12th and 19th, and leading a stricken McLaren, then imagine what having an Indian driver would do. As it is, the practice and qualifying reports in the paper I read mostly mentions just Force India.

    Stick to the Italians and the Germans,¬†please…

  18. "But what I find odd is that the team is called Force India and yet is based in Northamptonshire…"
    Not odd at all. If I was buying a F1 team, I’d prefer to keep it located next to Silverstone.
    Calling it Force India, brings in the potential revenue of millions of fans buying merchandise from India.
    Calling it Force Milton Keynes or Force Northamptonshire makes it sound like a commercial radio station.

    …and I don’t think they should pick an Indian driver. Better to get a driver that will give the teams points and establish them with sponsorship in F1, rather than go the way of Pacific Racing and rely on paying drivers to keep the team going.

  19. if there is an Indian driver better¬†(or¬†better¬†prospect) than Adrian Sutil or Tonio Liuzzi, or more experienced then Fisichella, then yes, they should get an Indian driver … I do not think there is in Indian driver who could take Fisi’s place right now. But if Sutil’s 2008 results are what is expected of their no. 2 driver, than I wonder¬†whether Karthikeyan or Chandhok would do much worse …

  20. Drivers should be chosen according to their talent and abilities, not nationality.

    I can understand why the Indian people would want drivers to match the team, but surely they can see that it’s better to have a good foreign driver who will help improve the team rather than a mediocre Indian driver who will simply do his best.

    The team is not in  a position where they can afford to accommodate people just for the sake of it, if they did then they would soon be looking for new owners Рas it is, they can perhaps think about taking on an Indian test driver in a few years if they manage to stick it out.

  21. Vijay Mallya has said he wants to develop Indian talent, but that none of its drivers are right for Force India at this time. This strikes me as very level-headed. It lets him gradually build up the Indian connection without doing anything that would endanger Force India’s short-term performance. Karun Chandhok will almost certainly make it into Force India’s line-up (perhaps as a third-driver-cum-GP2-veteran in 2009, followed by a full-time seat in 2010); by not rushing him, India’s driver representation will hopefully end up more than a token gesture.

    Staying put makes total sense because moving to India would be hugely disruptive; only when India has the infrastructure and the people for relocation to make sense should it be done. However, I think we can rule out Force India using the extension planning permission that the team got in its Jordan days…

  22. i can understand most of u ppl not thinking great of narain. however, mallya not even trying him for the race seat is simply appalling for me…if he didnt match the others in the shoot out then it would have been easier for us to accept the fact that he didnt fit the scheme of things..
    however, we do have chandhok waiting in the wings…

  23. I thought better to put some lines based on my observations about few commnets.
    Karun should not be a part of the F1 in 2009/10. He still needs to show his potential as a race winner in GP2 and has to be within Top-5 in GP2 europe series. Only 1 race win cannot prove or identify the race talent. He still need to beat many drivers in the iSportcar.
    Now come to the point of Narain Karthikeyan. NK was dropped by Jordan because of his strained relationship with Mr Collis. NK was out because Jordan was taken over by Midland. NK was out clearly of business intrest of the then MIDLAND take over. India could have in no way a hot spot for the MIDLAND bussiness in terms of Market revenue. Narain was dropped because of Albers who had some better sponsers than NK.
    This is defended by the Williams bosses as well Mr Colles himself that NK has got a lot of potential but he needs a right car and ofcurse money to remain in the F1.
    Narain was never thrown out of williams. It is because Toyota is partly controlling the team for promoting their drivers. Drivers like Wurz is shown the doors for the the TDP driver. It is Narain who decides to stay in A1 GP than in Williams alhough the latter offered the same role as last year. Narain is now getting better money in A1 GP than he was getting in williams. The A1GP team got so many sponsers after that and now a better team in terms of money and so in terms of performance.
    Vijay Mallya was one of the biggest sponsors of NK in his early days. Buy why he is not supporting him now? The reason looks very simple. Force India F1 wants to remain in the GRID and for that they need to develope a car. Fischii is a talented driver and a race winner, he can really help to develpe the car and that’s what matters the most to a race fan.¬†No body in¬†India would like to see an Indian¬†driver racing in an outlapped car. In that respect Mr Mallya is perfectly right. He is aiming for a better car and then a better driver whether it is Neel Jani or NK or KC or any one he can afford to pay for. One thing is very clear, the Force India F1 team would never compromise on drivers and hardly would they go for any Paid drivers.

    Hence it is good for F1 as one more team is coming to fight for the midfield.

  24. Hey, it’s F1, not A1! Indian driver is not a must.
    For a F1 driver, the most important thing is his capbility, not his nationality.
    Let’s take Super Aguri as an example, at the very beginning of last season, Suzuki insisted only using Japanese drivers, and what is the result?

  25. Hoshiar… dude you need to realize that even though it would be great to have an Indian driver competing in F1 again, an Indian team on the grid cannot and should not imply an easy ticket to a race seat. I am sure the reason for keeping Adrian over bringing in Narain or Karun had more to do with continuity than anything else as Adrian had been driving the same car last year.

    Rohan: For you it may be bad enough to have a team named after a nation, but I have never heard anyone complain about it before. If you ask me, I am glad Vijay didn’t name it Kingfisher Racing, although that would have given him one more avenue for advertising his beer brand (Alcohol and Tobacco ads are banned in India). Another thing, even though the Indian media will get over excited and make really embarrassing race reports as the one you mentioned, you need to realize all of this is contributing to making F1 popular in India. That will ultimately ensure that an Indian Grand Prix becomes as permanent a fixture as the Malaysian Grand Prix.

  26. Well, I think that naming a team after a country in a sport where teams are made up of people from all over the world, is just an attempt to tap into jingoism. How many of the staff at Force India are actually Indian? But the owner (or part owner – from a comment above) is Indian. So it’s Force India. Sure, Mallya could’ve named it Kingfisher Racing, but then, we wouldn’t be praising him so much for giving us an "Indian team out there, an Indian team", would we?

    It’s different in sports like, say, cricket, where a national team has a distinctive style of play. But then again, clubs are named after cities, and you could make the same argument about them, too. And it’s fairly easy to avoid reading newspaper articles…

  27. C’mon dude…. have a heart… it’s not that bad a name… he doesn’t own a car brand to name it after that and if you go into the etymology of Force India it stems from the Italian phrases/cheers like Forza Azzuri, or Forza Ferrari… which literally translates to Force Azzuri or Force Ferrari.

    and on the lighter side, you can have teams named after energy drinks, and you can’t even be sure how many of their people actually drink Red Bull… I think a team named after a
     country is acceptable. Peace.

  28. Regarding the team name, I think Vijay has said from the start that he intends for the team to be a source of pride and spirit in India, while also exposing the nation to F1 in the process of building a new fan/sponsor base. Obviously the name Force India fall in line with this logic.

    With that said, if Vijay bought the team and named it anything else, it woulden’t matter what nationality the drivers were. However, he’s obviously using it as a spirit-building tool as well as a marketing device in India, so in this instance it would absolutley pay to have at least one Indian driver. Fisi’s obviously not going to be racing a heck of alot longer, so perhaps Vijay will have time to either find and build his young Indian star, or touch up one of the current prospects mentioned above to put in a seat in a year or two. The whole scheme reminds me a bit of Red Bull’s young driver program from a few year’s back- perhaps something like this will be on the books for Force India in the near future.

  29. The team should just go ahead and do what is in their commercial interest. I do not see any European team, placing an Indian driver in their car, excepting he is bringing vast amounts of sponsorship money. Praise should be given to Vijay for having good business sense.

  30. force india’s Fisi is making his presence felt in the track..
    vijay Mallya is putting too much effort in making a good team. All the Engineers are working hard..
    so is it right time for force india to be in top 10 in next race??

  31. Hey all,

    I think Mr. Mallya and Karun Chandhok have both done the right thing.
    a) i think Karun showed great maturity by refusing a drive with the team when negotiations took place. He has a great head on his shoulders and to anyone that says he hasn’t got pace, look at the Gp2 Asia series qualifying.¬† Sure, he didnt score too many points or podiums but look at the number of times he was taken off by a slower car (for which the slower driver has even been penalised on one occasion)
    b) I think signing Fisi was a great move. He is out to make a point to Renault and also comes with great experience.
    c) Karun’s test in the Red Bull F1 car was stunning. He was 11th quickest in his 2nd ever outing in an F1 car. The best thing about him is his determination and sharp mind. One of the smartest out there. I think HE (KC) knows he’s not ready which is why he makes it a point to tell journo’s (including myself) that Gp2 is his target and F1 is the future. He’s learnt from Narain’s mistakes and wants to be in F1 for more than just a season….¬†
    He is the future of Indian motorsport in F1 ! and a great guy…hope he certainly goes all the way.

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