Page last updated at 07:56 GMT, Saturday, 20 June 2009 08:56 UK

Formula One on a budget

By Brian Milligan
Business reporter, BBC News


Driving a F1 car is not like driving a road car

F1 racing team Force India give the BBC a tour round their factory and reveal their plans for the future.

Adrian Sutil, the German racing driver, is looking over his car at Force India's team headquarters, close to Silverstone.

His is one of the most impressive talents on the circuit.

The concert circuit that is, not the racing one.

"Apparently he can play Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue from memory," says Lucy Genon, of Force India.

If only his skills on the keyboard were matched by his success behind the wheel.

For although he came 19th in the drivers' championship in 2008, he and his team mate, Giancarlo Fisichella, have not yet won any points for Force India.

Ever since Jordan days, we've tried to run small and lean
Ian Phillips, Force India

After two seasons, the team put together by the Indian billionaire, Vijay Mallya, has failed to make any impression on the championship.

But Ian Phillips, the business director, is bullish about the team's prospects.

"If we carry on at this rate of progress, point-scoring should be a given next year. At every single race."

Small Budget

The achievements of Force India shouldn't be underestimated. The team has a budget of just $120m (£72.8m).

Large manufacturers like Toyota or BMW have a budget four or five times bigger.

Adrian Sutil, AFP/Getty
Force India are confident points will come in 2010-11.

And whereas Force India employs fewer than 300 staff at its Silverstone headquarters, rivals employ up to 800.

"We've got to spend our money wisely and efficiently," says Mr Phillips, who's been in charge here since the company was owned by Eddie Jordan.

"Ever since Jordan days, we've tried to run small and lean."

One way the team is trying to be efficient is by exploring the use of Indian technology on its cars, rather than more expensive European versions.

"I don't say you can see it on the cars yet, but you will do," says Mr Phillips. He goes on to explain that technology from the subcontinent isn't necessarily better, but it is as good. And, of course, it's cheaper.

In line with the dreams of owner Vijay Mallya, the team is also trying to recruit some Indian drivers.

"It's not far away," says team manger Andy Stevenson. "There are definitely some in the ranks, and we should get some of those in a Formula One car sooner rather than later."

Thirst for success

Dr Mallya is best known in India as chairman of United Breweries, which produces Kingfisher beer, a favourite in curry houses across Britain.

Formula One start, AP
Force India wants to put an Indian driver on the winner's rostrum

He also founded Kingfisher airlines, one of the fastest growing carriers in the country.

And such is his thirst for international brands that he bought Whyte and Mackay Scotch whisky in 2007.

But what he really wants to see is an Indian driver in an Indian car, taking at least third place in the Indian Grand Prix in 2011.

"It's a fair ambition," says Mr Phillips, "but he is a man with vision. He's also a man who understands that however much money you throw at something, it doesn't necessarily happen."

At this point in time in Formula One, nothing is necessarily going to happen anyway. With the dispute between the FIA, the sport's governing body, and the F1 Teams Association (FOTA) no-one knows what the future holds.

But if there is a Grand Prix in Delhi in two years' time, there is a team of engineers in a corner of Northamptonshire which is striving to put an Indian on the victor's podium.

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