Whispers that Force India have a ‘concrete offer’ on the table to sell

Whispers last week

TJ13 reported earlier in the week that Mallya and Sahara could be in negotiations to sell part of all of the Force India Team. And raise much needed cash.

“I was chatting to someone this weekend who is both experienced and wise in the matters of team operations, and I told him of my increasing surprise at Force India’s lack of announcement of Di Resta. He smiled and said he was not. I pressed him on the matter insisting there is absolutely no reason not to announce a driver who will definitely be racing in 2013.”

He asked me one question. “When football clubs may be about to change owners or managers, do they announce new player contracts or leave those decisions for those about to take responsibility?” (TJ13 Link) 

Cash troubles?

A source close to the Force India team told TJ13 today that there had been a recent and prominent lack of basic stock items available which was causing concern.

Further, this morning runours have it that in a strange turn of the circle, Mr. Bernie Ecclestone is looking at a rescue plan for the Silverstone team. Ironically, it was his failure to run a successful F1 team in the late 1980’s that opened the doors for him to run F1’s commercial affairs – making him a multi billionaire. He sold the Brabham team for a reported $5m in 1988.

Mr. Ecclestone was allegedly one of a number of the interested parties negotiating to buy Brawn GP for the 2010 season. Some suggest he was outbid and beaten to the deal by Daimler-Benz, a matter he was reportedly most displeased about and which may goe someway to explain the reported animosity between the two parties early in 2012.

The return Kolles and Di Resta out?

Further, ItaliaRacing.net  is reporting that Colin Kolles, who they suggest is a favourite with Ecclestone due to his ‘hard headed’ approach to team organisation, may be making a return to the Silverstone team he previously managed as Jordan, Midland, Spyker and then Force India until in 2009 Vijay Mallya decided to replace him – with himself.

The Italian site suggests Mr. Ecclestone may enlist the help of Flavio Briatore in the bid to save the Force India team .

F1 fans have lit up the world wide web with their debates and discussions as to why Paul Di Resta has not been confirmed as one of the Force India team’s drivers for 2013. However, should Mr. Ecclestone acquire the Silverstone based team, it is possible the young Scott would not be given a drive this year.

Problems for Ecclestone

If Ecclestone were to acquire an interest and influence in an F1 team, what could this mean? As CEO for the owner’s of F1 (CVC), Bernie has an eye to the big business that is the race promoters’ fees that generate nearly half of F1’s annual revenue. The Indian GP saw a pretty spectacular fall in attendance in the second year of hosting an F1 race (2012). At the time, Mr. Ecclestone expressed concern that with no Indian F1 driver in the future, these attendances could fall further. He was on more than one occasion in TV interviews seen to be cajoling Vijay Mallya to recruit an Indian driver to his Force India team.

There has been a fair amount of criticism of Ecclestone recently, led by the president of Ferrari, who questioned whether the F1 supremo’s age mitigates against his ability to juggle the many balls required to manage F1. This has been evident in the chaos of the F1 2013 calendar.

Ecclestone has made copious ‘announcements’ on the matter fostering speculation around where the 20th race would be held that replaced the cancelled New Jersey event. 2 circuits in France, Austria and Turkey have all been debated.

The most amusing of these fau pas was when asked about the likely country to host the empty date on the provisional calendar – he replied “France – it will be France”. That date was the same day as Le Mans!

Why FOM might want a racing team

With his eye on the future circuits coming on stream, it could be is important for Ecclestone to deliver these to the calendar particularly as the rumblings over finance with a number of traditional F1 venues continues. Valencia have dropped out, Germany don’t know who is going to host the race in around 6 months yet and the Turkish government refused the F1 hosting deal of the decade at a mere 10m euro’s.

To this end Russia is the next flag-ship ‘guaranteed’ entrant to the F1 circuit and Ecclestone is known to be very keen to have a Russian driver on the grid. Should he and commercial rights holders CVC control an F1 team like Force India it would enable FOM (the owners’ operating company) to promote F1 to the Indian and Russian fans by offering a national icon they can connect with – say Narain Karthikeyan and Vitaly Petrov.

It is likely there would be criticism from within the sport about potential conflicts of interest, yet the regulations at present do not appear to preclude this relationship between FOM and a competing F1 team.

(Since this story was posted the ItalianRacing.net article was offline for a couple of hours but is now back – if you tried the link and it didn’t work, it does now)

UPDATE 16:00 GMT: Force India have told Autosport this afternoon, “Our shareholder Vijay and Sahara are incredibly strong. “They don’t need partners. As we speak, we are putting together and implementing an expansion programme that Vijay talked about at the end of last year,” he said in regard to a £50 million investment in the team’s facilities.”

And all that is going ahead and moving forward. For the last four years, coming now to our fifth year, the team has been financed without any dependence on the shareholders’ companies that they own. There is absolutely no substance to it anywhere and that’s the thing that’s very distressing.”

“We have had no discussions whatsoever with any buyers at all.”

SAHARA Force India have listed on their site as partners (read sponsors) – Whyte and MacKay, Vladivar (owned by W&M), Royal Challenge (an Indian whisky owned by United Spirits), UB Group, Kingfisher and Fly Kingfisher listed as official partners. (LINK) Including Sahara this is 7 of the 21 ‘partners’ who are ‘shareholders’ companies’. Wonder what the balance of contribution is?

On the home page of Force India’s website, the six above ‘partner’s along with Pirelli are in big boxes, and the others in boxes about a third of the size underneath.

The Silverstone team have also said that they will not use the launch to ‘confirm their driver lineup. “No. The launch is to launch the VJ06,” said Bob Fearnley. He did however suggest it was unlikely they would use testing to evaluate possible candidates. In the words of Lewis Carol, “curiouser and curioiser….”.

Update: 16:48 GMT: Within the past hour, German media source MotorSport-Total.com claims they have information that there is a concrete offer on the table to buy Force India, and it is awaiting a response from Vijay Mallya and his co-investors.

In the meantime Kingfisher Airlines will appear in court on Monday, as they request to defer taxes due to the Indian authorities as it will cause “irrepreable damage and harm” to the company if they are forced to pay them now. (Economic Times). Not much chance of that ‘partner’ sending a cheque then.

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41 responses to “Whispers that Force India have a ‘concrete offer’ on the table to sell

  1. Since crashgate the rules have changed and all team principles, managers and engineers as well as drivers, need to have a super licence.
    However the rules on issuing super licences mean that the FIA can issue them to literally anyone they fancy, no qualifications whatsoever are required. But does Bernie actually have one? As a team owner he will need one.
    Now since the recent reorganisation, and the creation F1 policy group, Bernie has a 33% say in the rules. (something which I think may go against the EU commission ruling) so it will be a doddle to get himself a licence. Or maybe he floats above such earthly matters.

    I had been wondering for some time how, with VJ’s and Sahara’s finances disappeared down a black hole, the Force India team could possibly carry on.

    • “the FIA can issue them to literally anyone they fancy, no qualifications whatsoever are required.”

      That’s simply not true.

      • In that case I apologise, I have just searched all my copies of the regs but had only kept back to 2010. But I definitely remember reading, albeit some time ago in the regs, that the FIA reserved the right to award super licences to whomsoever they wished, it was in connection with appointing officials.

        • An FIA Super Licence is a driver only licence and has a fairly strict structure as to how one can be obtained. Why would an FIA appointed official such as a track doctor need a Super Licence?

          • Sporting regs article 4
            4.1 All drivers, competitors and officials participating in the Championship must hold a FIA Super Licence. Applications for Super Licences must be made annually to the FIA through the applicant’s ASN.

          • As above but also in Sporting Regs:
            12) OFFICIALS
            12.1 From among holders of an FIA Super Licence the following officials will be nominated by the FIA :
            a) Three stewards one of whom will be appointed chairman.
            b) A race director.
            c) A permanent starter.
            12.2 From among holders of an FIA Super Licence the following officials will be nominated by the ASN and their names sent to the FIA at the same time as the application to organise the Event:
            a) One steward from among the ASNs nationals.
            b) The clerk of the course.

            Actually I never mentioned a doctor, though I am sure he has one or will be issued with one. My original comment was regarding whether Bernie had one.

  2. With all this uncertainty over Force India I guess Hulkenberg’s sideways move isn’t looking so curious after all.

    How about they call the team “Bernie”

    • Then they could put the ‘Bernie Says – drive safely’ he plasters around the circuits on the cars – road deaths reduced – #SAVIOUROFMANKIND

  3. What a development, but hardly surprising all things considered. I don’t think Mr.E is into rescuing teams but I am only guessing here. He has been unpredictable of late. If he does rescue, and I hope he does, then I hope he looks for talented drivers over pay drivers (as he will hardly need it). If he goes down this strategy, it helps F-India to a solid WCC position. A solid WCC position will help BE sell it to a good buyer a year on and save 400 plus jobs and what is essentially a good team. Going down the pay driver path won’t help him realize a quick buck. I hope he realizes that for the sake of adding some depth to the mid field. Any of the following would make me more or less happy: Sutil, Kovalainen, Alguesuari, Kobayashi, Petrov (in order). The following would be pretty neutral or annoying for me: Di Resta, Bianchi, Kathekeyan, Chandhok, Ambrosio, Van Der Garde.

    • Why isn’t Di Resta on your ‘happy’ list?

      He maybe had a bit of a lack luster year, but I consider him a solid driver. I’d almost question Kovalainen, as he has never quite impressed me. Though I was jaded by his performance at McLaren.

      • Oh don’t get me started on Di Resta. He does not make my preferred list. Remember, it is just my opinion. I forgot Senna by the way. I suppose that in itself speaks volumes!

        • Di Resta is someone I like in interview, but manage to totally ignore during the action. I’d actually quite like, sometime, to hear a good rant on the man. Time and a place, maybe, but interested.

  4. It’s been widely reported that Force India were to switch to Ferrari engines for 2014. I wonder if there’s any chance a Ferrari related company would purchase Force India and turn it into a development team for Ferrari as Red Bull have with Toro Rosso.

    • You never know. Maybe that explains the delay in announcing Di Resta.

      Howevere, the Italian site I have quoted as a source, were either the first or close to the first in breaking the Pirelli to return to F1 story.

      Flavio may be back sooner than we think

    • I posted this on James Allen three days ago:

      “I suspect Force India may not have much choice as far as engines go. If they can work a deal with Ferrari re Bianchi they will probably save lots of money; if they go with Mercedes they will have to pay for the engines.

      Vijay is having huge money problems, his Kingfisher Airlines lost its license to fly, Kingfisher employees haven’t been paid for seven months, and he just had his personal Airbus A-319 seized by tax authorities for failure to forward airlines taxes; Sahara has to repay several billion dollars to investors and in fact are late with the payment.

      Force India may not be around for long at this rate, and will have problems paying for engines et al. I am also suspicious that the delay in announcing their driver line-up is due to financial problems.”

      Everything I read lately makes it seem more and more likely they will be sold.

      @ Judge13 – my first post. Thanks for the great site, I really enjoy it and your style.

      • Great to hear from you. Did you post the ‘https://www.thejudge13.com/……’ By copying it from the top of the page on my site where the article is? Or just the text…

        Many thanks whichever – the former is better. Keep talking to the TJ13 commentating crew, they decent bunch…some sites get a bit abusive… These lot are not like that…quick to correct me though when it’s needed 🙂

  5. The article was oflf line for a few hours, now back on, but the refference to Flavio Briatore is still there.

  6. The article was off line for a few hours, now back, but the reference to Flavio Briatore is still there.

  7. As Cavallino rampante says, It seems there already was a initial agreement that Force India would change to Ferrari engines in 2014, Jules Bianchi would then be the logical choice to get a seat, also Force India would become a satelite team for Ferrari (like Torro Rosso and Red Bull), would be interesting to know if that deal is still on.
    Paul di Resta should most definitely be worried, his sponsors are not worth mentioning, if the team changes owners, i think he’s out.

  8. stranger things have happened and it would be the first time BE has bailed out that particular factory with hard cash to keep it going… however, Having been in the factory this week everyone is busy getting on with things and from the snippets I overheard are working towards a bright future so I remain to be convinced

  9. Joe Saward is reporting that Glock may be on the way out from Marussia.

    That could add an interesting new twist to the driver negotiations and could offer a life-line to both Senna and Kovalinen.

    His thinking is that Petrov would be a good fit for the team, offering money and experience. It would seem sensible in that case that Caterham keep hold of Kovalinen for some consistency going in to next season.

    We don’t know what FI are doing, but we know Senna has some money and with the current funding situation he could well be a good fit, unless Sutil can bring more or the ‘benefits’ of running Bianchi are better…

    Going back to the original story, it is a shame that Glock is (potentially) moving away from F1 but I guess Marussia need the money due to Bernie’s awkwardness and it is probably too late for him to work a deal elsewhere.

    This really does seem to be the oddest season for a while when it comes to teams not having drivers sorted so close to the start of testing…

  10. There are some new rumors in the Italian media, that there are some lifelines for Force India besides being (partly) sold, if they decide to use Ferrari engines in 2014, give Bianchi a seat and become a satelite team for the Scuderia, they would get the engines for a very friendly price, and with the new turbo engines costing clients up to €20 million a year, it’s a substantial financial injection.

    That would give them some air, not Di Resta though,because they could combine the Bianchi/Ferrari deal with the arrival of Luiz Razia, the young Brazilian is said to bring with him a $30 million sponsor budget, if Force India could seal both deals the future looks bright again.
    Di Resta’s nervousness is very understandable, he could be on his way out.

    • I heard that too – was something in the blog just around new year – but admittedly I didn’t reveal possible the Di Resta replacement.

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