McLaren won't decide Force India drivers
|By Edd Straw and Jonathan Noble||Monday, November 10th 2008, 14:20 GMT|
McLaren have dropped a firm hint that they will recommend who their preferred drivers are for new team partners Force India, but have insisted they will not impose their will on the Silverstone-based team.
Force India announced on Monday that they have entered into a five-year partnership arrangement with McLaren, which will in this first instance see them receive a supply of Mercedes-Benz engine, gearbox, KERS and other 'operational' assistance.
While discussions between Force India and McLaren were ongoing, speculation surfaced that Mercedes-Benz DTM racer Paul di Resta and McLaren test driver Pedro de la Rosa could be in the frame for drives next season.
But speaking to autosport.com on Monday, McLaren F1 CEO Martin Whitmarsh made it clear that his team would not make such demands on Force India - although he said they would likely make recommendations about such things as drivers.
"There's nothing off bounds in this partnership," said Whitmarsh. "Vijay has shown a lot of confidence in his commitment and investment in this partnership and us.
"We'll sit down and talk about every aspect of the programme, and that extends beyond the process development and the powertrain. We've got to work together on all those things.
"We will make proposals and recommendations that we think are enhancing the prospect of good performance. Vijay is an enormously successful entrepreneur in his own right in many fields, and if he turned all of those attentions to Formula One he would be an awesome competitor for all of us.
"The reality is that I suspect he has some staggering business commitments outside of Formula One and he would expect us, as a specialist professional in this field, to make all of the recommendations that are necessary to go forward.
"At the end of the day, we've got to be respectful that Force India are a team in their own right. They are a partner, but although there will be a range of strident suggestions and recommendations, this team have to decide. It's in his hands.
"This isn't a takeover by McLaren. This is an independent team that we happen to be partnering, and I hope that we can bring business benefit to this organisation."
Force India team principal Vijay Mallya admitted that he would listen to McLaren's advice about drivers – although said there were bigger issues to deal with at the moment.
"Martin put it very well - they will recommend what will be in the best interests of my team and I will be hard pressed to ignore their advice," he said. "First we have to build a car.
"If we don't have a car then there's no point having a driver! The whole idea is first to get a car now. It's already pushing the envelope a little bit, so we need to focus on the car. The driver comes next.
"We will have these conversations. McLaren will take as much pride in the interests of Force India as I do and whatever Martin suggests I will take seriously as being in my best interests. We will talk about it. A driver is just one element."
Whitmarsh also made it clear that there was no suggestion of Force India becoming a McLaren B-team, or even simply running customer cars.
The deal has been put in place in such a way that it is not in breach of the Concorde Agreement, the document by which F1 is run, which effectively outlaws customer cars.
"We are assuming that the provisions of the old Concorde Agreement are in place," said Whitmarsh. "We are able to supply the identical powertrain in the previous framework. We are also able to help develop the capability processes and procedures of this team.
"In reality that's good. It's good for the workforce here, and the pride that they take. That's making a longer-term investment. If Concorde allowed and/or we decided to hand across our car and make it a customer team, a B-team or whatever, it may create a happy partner in the short-term but it doesn't build this team for the long-term.
"I believe Vijay wants to achieve success as early as he can, but he has the vision and the commitment that he'd see, rather than a shell of a team with the cars delivered from Woking, an organisation that is stronger and has the ability at the end of this agreement to have the self-belief and confidence in a very respectable manner to go on on its own."