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Force India F1 launch: New team name likely before Australia

There is a "high probability" that Force India will change its 2018 Formula 1 team and chassis name before the start of the season in Australia, according to Otmar Szafnauer

Force India has been working on a new identity since late last year, in the belief that its connections to India have compromised sponsorship opportunities, although it recently rebuffed speculation linking it to a takeover.

Its new VJM11 was launched in Barcelona on Monday under the Force India name ahead of pre-season testing starting, although there is reduced branding on team kit and around the garage.

"There's a high probability that it will happen before the first race of this year," chief operating officer Otmar Szafnauer told Autosport.

"We're still working on it, we still haven't quite pinpointed what the name change will be, but we always said there will be a name change coming.

"The deadline is coming close, and like anything, the closer you get to a deadline the harder you work to make sure it happens."

Force India's process was slowed by "cyber squatters" taking over potential domain names last year, and since then the team management has taken extra care to keep potential candidates under wraps, as well as ensuring that the new identity will have a long shelf life.

"It's one of those things that doesn't happen every day, so you've got to get it right, so you might as well take your time as opposed to doing it early - because it's going to be for a long time," he said.

"There's a few stakeholders in this, the guys who own the place, potential sponsors in the future, FOM, so you've got to align all that before you pull the trigger.

"If it doesn't happen by Australia, there's always next year. It will be a good thing to do earlier rather than later, but like I said, getting it right is more important than the timing, because it's going to be there for a long time.

"Everyone's got an opinion on it, and until we all come to the same opinion, and if there's no timing pressure, you still talk about."

Force India launched a well-sponsored car in Barcelona, but Szafnauer confirmed that the team is already talking to potential backers for 2019 whose involvement is dependent on the name change happening.

He said: "We've had discussions with people who say, 'If you change the name, we're more interested - although not for this year.'

"That's why I say we've got to get it right, not for this year, but for next year.

"My preference is that we do it now.

"If it doesn't happen now, it's not detrimental. But if it doesn't happen at all, it could potentially be detrimental."

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