Cash squeeze 'critical' at Force India, admits Perez

BUDAPEST • Mexican Formula One driver Sergio Perez described his Force India team's financial situation as "critical" on Thursday, and recognised that his own future remained uncertain.

The Silverstone-based team are fifth in the constructors' standings but have been struggling with funding issues. Co-owner and team principal Vijay Mallya is fighting an attempt by India to extradite him from Britain to face charges of fraud, as a group of Indian banks seek to recover more than US$1 billion (S$1.36 billion) of loans granted to his defunct Kingfisher Airlines.

Force India's chief operating officer Otmar Szafnauer told Reuters last month that the team had suffered a cash squeeze through the European winter months but suggested that was easing.

But Perez painted a stark picture at the Hungarian Grand Prix, telling reporters: "At the moment, the situation is critical."

There has been speculation that Canadian driver Lance Stroll's billionaire father could be ready to invest in Force India, or even take control, with his son then moving to the team from Williams.

Szafnauer said he expected negotiations with Perez and his sponsors would take place around the time of the Mexican race later in the year.

But Perez, who was seventh in the championship in 2016 and 2017, behind the Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull drivers, said he felt events would force a quicker decision.

"I'm lucky enough to have a couple of options," he said. "I just want to see what's possible for next year, which teams have a vacancy, and then decide...

"There's no secret that the financial problems have held the team back quite a bit. When you look at the results, because Formula One is just about the results, we are fifth in the constructors' championship and you cannot imagine the financial issues we've had so far."

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 28, 2018, with the headline 'Cash squeeze 'critical' at Force India, admits Perez'. Print Edition | Subscribe