Motorsport: Sahara invests in Force India F1 team

Bathgate’s Paul di Resta has welcomed the $100 million investment which has been pumped into his Force India Formula One team.

The deal, which sees Indian sports promoter Subrata Roy’s Sahara India Pariwar take a 42.5 per cent share in the Silverstone-based team, was announced in New Delhi.

The inaugural Indian Grand Prix takes place in just three weeks.

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Sahara, which sponsors the Indian cricket team and owns the Indian Premier League side Bangalore Royal Challengers will join current team owner Vijay Mallya who also owns a 42.5 per cent share. The remaining 15 per cent belongs to the Mol family.

The commitment by Sahara to pump millions into the newly-renamed Sahara Force India team highlights the growing significance of F1 in India.

It also strengthens Di Resta’s position within the sport.

Force India has improved dramatically this year, both in terms of pace and reliability, and the new investment will accelerate further advances through 2012 and beyond. Through its technical partnership with McLaren, allied to its supply of Mercedes engines, the team is targeting fifth place in the constructors’ championship this season.

Fuelled by the new level of investment, the team is now in a position to retain the services of Di Resta. The Scot, who has impressed everyone on the F1 grid with his performances in his rookie season, is known to be on the ‘wishlist’ of a number of leading teams.

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At the announcement of the deal, Mallya — who has previously said he will confirm his 2012 driver line-up in December — gave the strongest hint that he will hold on to Di Resta. “I am happy with the current lot of drivers that we have got,” he said.

“The more important thing is that we have got an Indian team on the grid, and I am really proud of that. It has been a matter of pride for me to put India on the F1 map with Force India and raise the performance of the team to its current levels.”

Mallya will continue in his current role as team principal with Subrata Roy becoming chairman.

And Di Resta, who has recovered from the croaky throat which hampered him during last weekend’s Japan Grand Prix at Suzuka, welcomed the latest developments.

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“What has happened is a great thing for Force India, to have that investment coming in,” said the Scot who has so far scored 20 points this season.

“As Vijay recently said, his team is becoming what he wants it to be now. I’m sure it will continue on an upward slope. At this point I don’t know how the structure will work within the team.

“I understand Vijay will remain team principal, and he’s the one who has guided this team to what it is, so you have to give him credit for that, and hopefully it will continue that way. I’m sure in the background things will change, but that’s not a decision we’re going to get brought into.” The news of the investment comes ahead of this weekend’s Korean Grand Prix and the only problem for Di Resta, with two owners on board is to who will have the final say when it comes to driver line-up.

Neither Di Resta nor Adrian Sutil, who were testing on the very wet Korean trackin practice session this morning, have been confirmed for 2012, and the duo have reserve Nico Hulkenberg waiting in the wings following a number of strong practice performances this season.

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Although Mallya is team principal, Roy may yet demand a say on the situation, complicating matters for Anthony Hamilton, Di Resta’s manager, when it comes down to talks.

Although Hamilton is not due for talks until after Sunday’s race at Yeongam, as far as Di Resta is aware, the team are still going to wait until early in December before confirming their 2012 drivers.

The 25-year-old added: “The team have said they’re going to do it in December. Whenever they that want to do it, they will do it.”