Force India go into administration

BUDAPEST • Administrators for Force India said yesterday the Formula One team would continue to operate as normal while options were assessed.

The team, co-owned by Indian businessman Vijay Mallya, went into administration on Friday after a High Court hearing in London.

"We shall be engaging with key stakeholders on an urgent basis to secure the best outcome for creditors," said the joint administrator Geoff Rowley in a statement issued by FRP Advisory.

"In the meantime, the team will continue to operate as normal, including racing in Hungary this weekend.

"Our aim is for business as usual whilst we assess options to secure the future of the team."

Force India have finished fourth in the championship for the last two years and are currently fifth in a tight midfield battle.

Their drivers are Mexican Sergio Perez and Frenchman Esteban Ocon, who is backed by engine provider Mercedes.

A well-placed source told Reuters that Ocon, who has been linked to a move to Renault, was now a free agent under the terms of the administration. He is expected to leave next year in a transfer that may help alleviate the problems.

The legal action was triggered by Perez, supported by Mercedes and sponsor BWT who are all owed millions by the Silverstone-based team.

The racefans.net website cited court documents in which Perez's legal team claimed Force India "is or is likely to become unable to pay its debt" and its parent company "are unlikely to be able to provide financial support".

FRP Advisory is the same firm that acted as administrator for the now-defunct Manor Formula One team, which folded before the start of the 2017 season.

Force India's problems are well-documented, with team principal Mallya fighting an attempt by India to extradite him from Britain to face charges of fraud, which he denies.

A group of Indian banks are seeking to recover more than US$1 billion (S$1.36 billion) of loans granted to his defunct Kingfisher Airlines.

The team's chief operating officer Otmar Szafnauer told a news conference that he was optimistic a solution was about to be found.

"I think it's imminent. There's discussions going on in the background and I am not privy to those because it is a shareholder issue... But it will be very soon," he said.

Canadian billionaire Lawrence Stroll, father of Williams' teenager driver Lance Stroll, has been linked with the team as an investor in a move that would also see his son move teams.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 29, 2018, with the headline 'Force India go into administration'. Print Edition | Subscribe