Formula One's newest team, today launched its 2008 F1 challenger, the VJM01 at the historic Gateway of India in Mumbai.
Force India F1 team owner Dr. Vijay Mallya, bought the team from Spyker at the end of last season. Significantly, the new team will race under an Indian racing license -- a fact he is very proud of, "I think it should not be underestimated what it means to actually have a team that competes in the FIA world championship.
"There are only 11 teams that are allowed to compete, for the world championship, and it is a matter of great honour and pride to be one of them," Mallya commented at the launch.
India is a keen sporting nation, cricket being the main sporting focus in the country. Mallya, who always dreamed of a Indian F1 team, now hopes to widen the appeal of F1 to the countries population of around one billion.
The Indian billionaire, Mallya unveiled the car in front of several eminent personalities, political leaders and a bevy of celebrities and corporate head honchos.
The budget for the team for 2008 will be in excess of $120 million, but for this year at least, the 'new' car is basically last years Spyker. The car will carry a striking new livery of gold, tungsten and white and sponsorship wise the car is heavily adorned with the 'Kingfisher' logo. The airline and beer brand carrying the Kingfisher name are owned by Mallya.
Mallya is realistic about the teams chances for the coming season and commented during the launch event: "We inherited a team who's performance was not that great, I'm the first one to acknowledge it.
"This is a huge challenging task of performance improvement and becoming competitive. The only sport that I know of where even a fraction of a second is the difference between winning, losing or position," added Mallya.
It's certain the team will struggle this year but much of the budget is earmarked for the development of next year's car. The team hopes are that the 2009 will move them up the grid.
"It is exhilarating, challenging and also satisfying to be part of a movement where competition is truly at it's pinnacle, said Mallya. "We set about looking at what we need to do in order to make this team truly successful and to make our Nation proud."
The team considered its driver line up carefully, finally choosing Giancarlo Fisichella and Adrian Sutil. The drivers were announced January 10th in a show-stopping display.
"One of the first things we did was identify drivers who could bring value to this team. Drivers who could work with our engineering team, bring us experience, and help us in car development and setup," Mallya said.
While the team are not expected to have a significant performance gain for the coming season, Mallya is investing significant funds into the venture and clearly has an incredible passion for F1.
The sport has been opened up to a huge potential new audience which can only be a good thing and as Mallya points out, the team carries "The power of a billion dreams, the power of a billion hearts" so it will be interesting to see how things develop.