Earlier this year I wrote a post about Force India’s initiative to try to find a driver from India whom they could develop – they call it the “One in a Billion” search. I was reminded of this yesterday when Force India announced the deal with Sahara.
There were seven karting trials across India giving 14 to 17 year-olds the chance to show show their talent.
The best from each trial, a total of 100 kids, reached the national finals in September. Now ten finalists have been chosen to come over to Silverstone next week for the grand finale. The plan is for the winner to be presented at the Indian GP in October by Force India boss Vijay Mallya.
The winner will be taken on by the team for a minimum of three years, starting with a fully funded 2012 season in a competitive motorsport series in the UK. The runner up will have a similar package in India. The programme will take place every other year.
“If the Academy is able to place even one Indian on the F1 grid then all the effort would have been well worth it when our national anthem is played out for a victorious graduate of Academy,” said Mallya at the launch.
With yesterday’s news that the team has taken on a powerful new shareholder in the form of Sahara, this project has some more impetus behind it.
Next week’s final will be held over four days with karting evaluation, Porsche human performance evaluation, media training and final driver assessment.
The Silverstone finals take place next week from 18 – 21 October based around the schedule below.
There is a high powered panel of judges including Nico Hulkenberg, Anthony Hamilton, Bob Fernley and Eddie Jordan. Fernley is the driving force behind the project, while Hulkenberg has been involved at all the various stages along the way.
The best way to grow the sport in a country is undoubtedly to have a local driver. But everyone recognises that having a driver of a specific nationality in an F1 car isn’t enough in itself. It only works if you have a driver who does well, as with Alonso in Spain or Schumacher in Germany. This was the problem for Toyota and Honda with Japanese drivers and has been the issue for American drivers coming into F1.
The One in a Billion initiative is as good a way as any to find a driver with the talent and hunger to succeed in F1.