Formula One: Force India mull name change to bolster brand

The Force India F1 car sporting pink livery this season after securing a major sponsor in water technology specialists BWT.
The Force India F1 car sporting pink livery this season after securing a major sponsor in water technology specialists BWT.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

LONDON • Force India co-owner Vijay Mallya is considering changing his Formula One team's name to make the outfit more attractive to potential sponsors.

The Silverstone-based team have gone through various guises, starting out as Jordan in 1991 and then becoming Midland in 2006 and Spyker in 2007 before Mallya took control in 2008.

Force India have never had an Indian driver. The team's Indian sponsors were mostly brands linked to aviation and beer tycoon Mallya or co-owner the Sahara Group.

"There is a growing feeling that maybe since we are a much-improved team in terms of performance and attracting more international sponsors, and sadly less Indian sponsors, there is a debate as to why the name should not be changed to give it a more international flavour," Mallya told motorsport.com.

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"There are some people who believe the current name Force India is restrictive psychologically.

"I'm considering along with the other shareholders what steps to take but it's a major decision and one that is not going to be taken in a hurry without due consideration."

He said there was a proposal from one sponsor about a name change, and his legal situation had nothing to do with the idea. The 61-year-old rejected speculation about a possible sale last week.

He was arrested by British police in April on behalf of the Indian authorities, who accuse him of fraud. India is seeking his extradition over unpaid loans tied to his defunct Kingfisher Airlines after the businessman moved to Britain in March last year. He has repeatedly dismissed the charges against him.

It is not the first time he has mooted a team name change - he also did so in 2015 when there was talk of a deal with sportscar maker Aston Martin and whisky brand Johnnie Walker.

"I named the team Force India only to give India and all of the motorsport fans in my country pride of place on a Formula One grid," he told Reuters at the time. "But they've enjoyed that for eight years and now they know this team is synonymous and will still be an entry from India flying the Indian flag."

Force India finished fourth overall last season, a position they occupy after seven races.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 16, 2017, with the headline 'Force India mull name change to bolster brand'. Print Edition | Subscribe