2010 has had a great start already – one look at the way the driver’s market has shaped up in the span of the last month and you will agree too. The Mclaren and Mercedes split is now stale – what the world is really waiting to know is whether Michael Schumacher will indeed accept a Mercedes GP role 2010 and onwards.
Leaving the obvious Schumi talks aside, the Indian media were also keenly following the Force India Formula1 Team’s driver options for 2010. As always, Indian drivers were discussed, debated and neglected! Smartly, I’d say Vijay Mallya chose to stick to his able drivers who delivered last season, thereby bringing in the much needed stability in his team. Formula1 is headed towards stable regulations and having a stable driver pair would surely help. Also, these very drivers stood by the team during their low-grid days and now that they’re in their mid-grid days, it’s only good to retain your team and strengthen them.
But leaving management philosophy aside, has Vijay Mallya really made the right move by not choosing drivers or a driver of Indian origin? Top teams like Mclaren and Mercedes are encashing on their driver origins – so why not Vijay? Wouldn’t an Indian driver not only raise his team’s popularity in the country, but also promote motorsport locally? Food for thought!
Well, food for thought indeed. Karun Chandhok and Neel Jani were the two Indian drivers who have been knocking on the FIF1 doors since a while now. While Jani’s half Indian origins can be debated, his talent certainly can’t! And the opposite for Chandhok!
Both Jani and Chandhok had their skills put to the test on the state-of-art Mclaren simulator [they are partners with FIF1] and as expected Jani did clinch the top honours – beating the other rookies on both heavy and light fuel loads. [My interview with him got me these details!]
The only other Indian driver who is worthy and talented enough for an FIF1 seat is Narain Karthikeyan. Though their pairing has been much discussed earlier, the chances of it happening are almost negligible.
While Vijay has his reasons [personal!] for ignoring Narain all these years, his reasons for ignoring one of the most successful A1 GP drivers who also happened to top the simulator test are unknown. Was it down to the money that Jani brought to the table? Or was it really to keep his current driver-team combo stable?
Whatever be the case, I strongly believe that Neel Jani should’ve been given a shot in one of the cockpits – after all an Indian in the Force India car might just be the power boost that Formula1 needs to propel the sport forward in India. And what about Karun? A few more wins in GP2 and some more canvassing might surely help – and then, there’s always a next time!
So think again, is Vijay participating in Formula1 to grow the sport in India or to compete and win against the best in the world? And then, you will agree that Sutil and Luizzi are the best step forward in 2010 – May the Force be with you!