My wage claim saved Force India: Perez

Mexican Formula One driver Sergio Perez's claim for money owed - some €4 million, mostly from last season - was supported by engine provider Mercedes and team sponsor BWT.
Mexican Formula One driver Sergio Perez's claim for money owed - some €4 million, mostly from last season - was supported by engine provider Mercedes and team sponsor BWT. PHOTO: AFP

BUDAPEST • Mexican Formula One driver Sergio Perez said on Saturday that he sent the Force India team he drives for into administration to save the jobs of 400 colleagues.

British-based Force India, co-owned by embattled Indian businessman Vijay Mallya and sixth in the championship, were placed into administration by the London High Court on Friday.

"I love Vijay. My heart is really broken because I know this is not ideal in the short term for him, but the big picture is really different," said Perez, in his fifth season with Force India. "The bottom line of this is that we do this or the team would have gone bust. That's what I get from the lawyers and members of the team."

Going into administration effectively removes the immediate threat of closure and also overcomes the obstacle of shareholder resistance to a sale.

Perez's claim for money owed - some €4 million (S$6.36 million), mostly from last season - was supported by engine provider Mercedes and team sponsor BWT.

With up to five interested parties, a sale appears imminent, and the August break after yesterday's Hungarian Grand Prix will be vital.

  • $6.4m 

    Amount Sergio Perez is owed by his team, Force India.

"There was a winding-up petition from another customer which would have closed down the team completely. Therefore I was asked to basically save the team, to pull the trigger and put the team into administration," said Perez.

"It has nothing to do with my outstanding amounts. The only reason I've done it is to save the team and for its better future.

"Emotionally and mentally, it's really tough. I haven't been able to focus on my driving and being a racing driver. I'm not going through a good time at the moment."

Mallya, who has a 42.5 per cent stake in the team, is fighting an attempt by India to extradite him from Britain to face charges of fraud, which he denies, with a group of Indian banks seeking to recover more than US$1 billion (S$1.36 billion) of loans granted to his defunct Kingfisher Airlines.

He has decried a "political witch-hunt" and has said he is seeking to sell assets worth billions to repay creditors.

 
 

Force India deputy principal Bob Fernley told www.autosport.com there was no animosity towards Perez for his decision. He added: "Whatever happens, like everybody else, 'Checo' (Perez) is entitled to be paid. Unfortunately we were not in a position to be able to pay him, and patience runs out for everybody. So, that's a process.

"I don't think we in any way look negatively at him. The responsibility for payment is on the team, not on Checo. He's been put in a difficult position. We have to respect his position, and not criticise it."

Perez's Mexican sponsorship has been a mainstay of the team's operations since he joined in 2014 and helps to ensure he is paid his salary.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 30, 2018, with the headline 'My wage claim saved Force India: Perez'. Print Edition | Subscribe