Force India stands pat on drivers

After an earlier, postseason shake up in its leadership hierarchy, Force India on Sunday announced the Formula One team would stick with its 2008 driver lineup for 2009.

Adrian Sutil, Giancarlo Fisichella and Vitantonio Liuzzi.
Photo by Force India F1.

Giancarlo Fisichella, 35, who since the end of the team's first season had expressed confidence at keeping his drive, remains as knowledge-dispensing veteran. Adrian Sutil, 25, retains the second race seat. Vitantonio Liuzzi, 27, continues as test driver.

"I firmly believe that next year will be a huge opportunity for this team," billionaire businessman owner Vijay Mallya said. "We have a new technical partnership with McLaren and Mercedes, a dynamic new management structure, and now one of the most solid driver lineups on the grid. We certainly welcomed the insight and advice of our new partners in this matter, however, the choice was entirely ours based on the current talent available in the market today. In Giancarlo, Adrian and Tonio we have a wonderful balance between experience and ambition and now complete consistency."

Speculation arose after Force India left a customer engine contract with Ferrari a year early in favor of a more comprehensive technical arrangement with McLaren Mercedes that the deal might carry dictates on driver selection.

Less than a week after the season ended, Mallya named himself team principal and tapped Robert Fernley as his assistant. Team manager Colin Kolles, technical director Mike Gascoyne, and corporate and business director Patrick Missling were cut loose. Design director Mark Smith and technical director James Key were tasked with designing the VJM02. Formula One newcomer Force India did not score a point in its first season.

The team is based in Silverstone, England, where it knew life previously as Jordan, Midland and Spyker.

Mallya's decision leaves only Scuderia Toro Rosso with an indefinite driver lineup. Newcomer Sebastien Buemi and veteran Takuma Sato are thought to have the inside tracks, although Honda's recent abandonment of the sport leaves highly considered Jenson Button free to consider other offers.