Force India boss Vijay Mallya today confirmed that he has sold 42.5% of the F1 team to Sahara India Pariwar, described as “a leading promoter and patron of sports in India.” The fee is US$100 million
The deal therefore values the team at $235 million (£150 million), a significant uplift on the price Mallya paid to buy the team known as Spyker. It is the same Silverstone based team which was originally known as Jordan, founded by BBC pundit Eddie Jordan.
“With this investment both the Sahara India Pariwar and Dr. Mallya will own 42.5% each in the team. The Mol family’s equity will be at 15%,” said a team statement. The Mol family is the original Dutch investor which was part of the team when it was Spyker and which has retained an equity stake ever since.
The investment is an important indicator of the impact F1 is likely to have in India. It comes just a fortnight ahead of the inaugural Indian Grand Prix at Buddh International Circuit, near Delhi. Reports on Reuters suggest that ticket sales have been strong and a capacity 150,000 crowd is expected for the October 30 event.
Sahara is a big mover in sports in India, the company is the shirt sponsor of the Indian cricket team and owns a team in the IPL cricket series, as does Mallya.
The team will henceforth be known as Sahara Force India F1 team. Subrata Roy Sahara, the Chairman of Sahara India Pariwar said, “India is reaching new heights in all spheres, including sports. Formula One car racing has always remained a bastion of the western world. The advent of India in this exciting sport has remained a matter of pride for all our countrymen. I feel doubly proud that Sahara is the co-owner of India’s only F1 team and I am sure that through the Sahara Force India F1 Team, we will together bring pride and laurels to our beloved nation.”
At the same time, Team Lotus boss Tony Fernandes has cast some doubt on whether his Indian test driver Karun Chandhok will get a race opportunity at the Indian Grand Prix, as has long been speculated. Chandhok sat in for Jarno Trulli at the German Grand Prix in July, but speaking to F1.com today, Fernandes said “I’d like to see him in the car, but practically there’s no point in putting him in just for the sake of it. We have two extremely experienced race drivers and I’ve got to do what’s right for them and for the team, not for Karun or for the Indian fans.
“My heart would love to see him race there. Emotionally it makes sense, but we have to come tenth.
“But ultimately it’s not my decision. I’ve told the team it’s up to them. None of us wants to put him under even more pressure than he’s already going to be under at his home race, and the truth is we have to focus on securing tenth place. When we ran him in Germany he did what we asked him to do. He did the best job he could in a car he had hardly run in, and despite what people think, it is impossible to just jump into the cockpit and be as quick as your team mate.”
Team Lotus is currently in tenth place out of 12 teams in the Constructors’ Championship, an important position as it carries financial benefits in terms of prize money, freight and personnel travel dispensations.