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Mallya dismisses Indian criticism

NEWS STORY
11/07/2011

Force India boss Vijay Mallya has hit back at fellow countrymen who criticise F1 for its failure to have an Indian on the grid.

The billionaire businessman, who feels that drivers should be on the grid on merit rather than nationality, calls on his countrymen to support his team whilst waiting for a home grown talent to emerge.

At Istanbul, there were two Indian drivers in action, if only for part of the weekend. Narain Karthikeyan - back in F1 after a six year absence - drove the Hispania, while Karun Chandhok drove a Lotus in the opening practice session. While Karthikeyan has now been dropped in favour of Australia's Daniel Ricciardo, Chandhok is limited to the occasional practice session, though there is still speculation that he could race in the maiden Indian Grand Prix in October.

Despite the best efforts of his 'One from a Billion' talent search, the fact is that for the foreseeable future Mallya's Indian team sports a Scot and two Germans. The continued criticism from back home clearly frustrates him.

"To be criticised, largely by the Indian folks, that I don't have an Indian driver is I think just blatantly unfair," he told Reuters. "My only response to them would be that I know more about Formula One than they do.

"As far as the existing Indian drivers in Formula One are concerned, I can only feel very sorry for them," he continued. "They are getting drives by the teams who clearly can't compete.

"If that's what they want to do, drive a Formula One car for the sake of driving a Formula One car and winding up at the back, I can't do anything about it," he added. "There has got to be good, raw talent in India and I am determined to go find it."

As Italy celebrates Fernando Alonso's win at Silverstone, Mallya popinted out that the country synonymous with motor sport has not had a Formula One world champion since 1953 (Alberto Ascari).

"If Ferrari is on the podium, the whole of Italy applauds," he said. "If Ferrari wins a race, the whole of Italy celebrates. Nobody ever asks the question of where is the Italian driver? Why suddenly in India? Be thankful for the fact you have an Indian team, sporting the Indian colours on the grid to begin with. The Indian driver will follow but let's not put the cart before the horse.

"I have been involved in Indian motorsport for over 30 years," he continued. "I have done whatever I could reasonably to promote the sport in India. And I take some credit for the fact that I put an Indian Formula One team on the grid, which nobody believed could ever have happened.

"I think there will be explosive growth in the popularity of Formula One after the Indian Grand Prix. So I have done my job for my country, for the hundreds of millions of young, aspirational Indians in terms of Formula One."

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