Force India protected from co-owner Mallya’s financial problems

Bob Fernley (left) pictured with Paul Di Resta at the launch of the Force India car for 2013
Bob Fernley (left) pictured with Paul Di Resta at the launch of the Force India car for 2013

Force India deputy team principal Bob Fernley has reiterated the Silverstone-based marque is ringfenced from co-owner Vijay Mallya’s personal financial problems.

Mallya’s Kingfisher Airlines is understood to be close to collapse, with reports in India claiming the 17 banks who loaned a total of around £840million are now looking to call in their debts.

Mallya’s business portfolio is extensive, with the tycoon recently selling off a considerable slice of his shareholding in United Spirits for £774million.

Last year, when rumours of the demise of Kingfisher were rife, Fernley insisted then the team would not be affected.

With suggestions the banks are seeking to sell off Mallya’s assets as collateral, his stake in Force India has been mentioned.

Fernley, however, has again claimed that what is currently happening to Mallya “doesn’t affect the F1 team”.

Speaking to, Fernley said: “There is a disconnect between what happens in Vijay’s business and what Vijay is doing on the F1 team.

“So it doesn’t matter what happens there. The shares in United Spirits have quadrupled in the last few months, so he did a wonderful deal there.

“But whether Kingfisher or United Spirits is doing well or not doesn’t affect the team, and it’s very difficult for us to get that message across, although we have been trying for several years.

“We get a story every three or four months where we are about to go bankrupt, or someone is selling us or whatever, and we’ve had that for five years, so we are used to it.

“Five times a year we are up for sale. But we are still there and the strength of Force India, which so many people seem to have missed, is our shareholders.

“We don’t have to go to the external market to be able to raise our race budgets. We are blessed to have quality shareholders like Vijay and Sahara.”

Subrata Roy Sahara, who purchased a 42.5% stake in Force India 16 months ago, currently has his own financial issues to contend with.

Bank accounts of two companies of Sahara, which also sponsors the Indian cricket team, have been frozen for failing to refund money to millions of investors.

The team, meanwhile, has confirmed a seat fitting for former driver Adrian Sutil took place this week.

Force India is the only marque in F1 yet to announce a second driver, with Sutil and current reserve Jules Bianchi the frontrunners to line up alongside Paul di Resta.

Sutil was axed at the end of 2011 in favour of fellow German Nico Hulkenberg, who this season will drive for Sauber.

Although refusing to state Sutil would definitely return, a team spokesperson told Press Association Sport: “Adrian has had a seat-fit with the team this week.

“At this stage the test driving schedule for the Barcelona test is not finalised, but there is a possibility Adrian could be involved.”

Force India are due to communicate on Monday their driving schedule for the second test at the Circuit de Catalunya, that runs from next Tuesday to Friday.