How Force In­dia were saved from ex­tinc­tion

F1 Racing (UK) - - INSIDER -

The Force In­dia team is un­der new own­er­ship af­ter be­ing saved from ad­min­is­tra­tion dur­ing F1’s sum­mer break. They will com­plete the sea­son un­der the name Rac­ing Point Force In­dia, fol­low­ing a hastily agreed arrangement with gov­ern­ing body the FIA and the For­mula 1 Group.

The res­cuer is a con­sor­tium led by Cana­dian bil­lion­aire Lawrence Stroll, fa­ther of Wil­liams driver Lance, but the deal was not with­out con­tro­versy. A trans­fer of nam­ing rights and prize money needed unan­i­mous agree­ment but was ini­tially blocked by Mclaren, Re­nault and Wil­liams be­cause of con­cerns that the new en­tity would be­come, in ef­fect, a Mercedes B team. There re­main ques­tions about the arrangement even though the team be­gan the Bel­gian GP with all par­ties say­ing they had come to an agree­ment.

The sale and own­er­ship trans­fer was com­pli­cated by a num­ber of In­dian banks which were ma­jor cred­i­tors of for­mer owner Vi­jay Mallya. Stroll had in­tended to buy the shares of the team and carry on as be­fore, keep­ing the prize money and rights. The need for the banks’ agree­ment meant that could not be done in the time re­quired. In­stead Stroll bought the as­sets and the old en­tity was de­clared de­funct.

Chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer Ot­mar Szaf­nauer, now CEO and team prin­ci­pal af­ter the de­par­ture of deputy team prin­ci­pal Bob Fern­ley, said: “Once that hap­pened we needed a new en­try into For­mula 1 and to gain a new en­try in a short pe­riod of time takes a lot of work.” The arrangement reached with the FIA was that the old team would be dis­qual­i­fied from the cham­pi­onship on the grounds of not com­pet­ing in all the races, and the new team would start from zero points, while driv­ers Este­ban Ocon and Perez kept the same en­gine and gear­box al­lo­ca­tion.

Szaf­nauer ini­tially said in Spa that the other teams had “signed a doc­u­ment that en­ables us to keep the (prize) money Sa­hara Force In­dia earned in years past”. As the week­end de­vel­oped it emerged it was not that sim­ple, and a num­ber of teams – in­clud­ing Haas and Mclaren – had ques­tions about the un­prece­dented process by which the new team was granted an en­try at a cost of €25m. There were also con­cerns about the fair­ness of the new team be­ing al­lowed to keep what are known as the “col­umn one” prize­money pay­ments. This is an equal amount for all the teams who have fin­ished 10th or above in two of the pre­vi­ous three sea­sons, and which last year was more than $35m.

The three teams who ini­tially had mis­giv­ings were given re­as­sur­ances about the re­la­tion­ship be­tween Stroll and Mercedes, but that re­mains some­thing about which a num­ber of se­nior fig­ures are con­cerned. The pri­va­teer teams – and Re­nault – are wor­ried that the grow­ing trend for teams ‘bud­dy­ing up’ and shar­ing re­sources, à la Fer­rari/ Haas, is mak­ing their busi­ness model un­sus­tain­able.

The new team are ex­pected to change name over the win­ter and there are also ques­tion marks about the driver line-up. Lance Stroll is ex­pected to join his fa­ther’s team but to do that a set­tle­ment needs to be reached with Wil­liams, and a de­ci­sion needs to made over the fu­ture of Ocon.


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