Mumbai:It's been a historic day on Thursday for motoring in India. First one of the cheapest cars in the history of the motor industry made its debut and then, the first formula one team to wear Indian colours was officially launched.
Force India F1, the team that hopes to put India on the formula one map, has announced its line up and Vijay Mallya, the co-owner of the team has promised a lot of good times ahead for Indian motor racing.
The 34-year-old Giancarlo Fisichella, a former Renault driver, has raced with Jordan, Benetton and Sauber in the past while 24-year-old German was with the Spyker team prior to the takeover by the Indian liquor baron Vijay Mallaya.
The Italian will be the first driver for Force India, and will be joined by German driver Adrian Sutil.
Another Italian Vitantonio Luizzi has been named as the test driver.
Despite of this international mix, the focus was quite clearly on the teams' Indian connection.
Vijay Mallya, Co-owner, Force India F1 said that I am proud that we have managed to put an Indian coloured car on the Formula 1 Grid in 2008. Along with the prospect of India hosting it's first grand prix in 2010, we're hoping to put the team on the podium.
These drivers will have quite a task ahead of them though. It's no secret that Force India won't be the richest team on the grid in 2008. Its budget of $120 million is only slightly more than the $100 million that McLaren paid as fine in the espionage case last year. What's interesting about those numbers is that the amount was little more than a dent in McLaren's bank. Yet Mallya believes that his team, can only improve, performance wise as well as financially.
"Last year Spyker had a budget of $70 million, this year we've increased that to $120 million," Mallya said
While Shah Rukh Khan has featured in some of promotional videos for Force India, the team will soon be launching a campaign to rope in fans and create some buzz for India's first racing team. But what will really help the popularity of formula one and more specifically Force India to accelerate up the charts will be an Indian Grand Prix, scheduled in 2010.
"We're hopeful that the Indian Grand Prix will happen by 2010. I'm in contact with Suresh Kalmadi, and the IOC is keen. Even if they can't deliver, someone else must. We must have a Grand Prix by 2010," Mallya said.