Mallya steals the show


Perhaps it is the fact that he was the only man present to have invested his own money into the sport, perhaps not, Either way, Vijay Mallya's performance at yesterday's press conference would have surely brought a wry smile to the face of former Minardi owner Paul Stoddart.

In the wake of this week's Strategy Group meeting and the subsequent statement from the FIA that some changes could be made to the sport as early as the next race, the official press conference seemed the ideal time to get some of the team principals views.

The mood was set by Sauber's Monisha Kaltenborn, who admitted: "Since we were not part of the discussion it's difficult for me to go into the specifics."

In a week which saw the initial results of one much publicised fan survey released - of which more later - the Strategy Group confirming that there clearly is an issue with certain aspects of the sport, and ahead of a race which, barring a disaster of biblical proportions, will see Mercedes destroy its rivals, the (mainly British) media was seeking some answers.

Whilst Lotus' Matthew Carter blames the media for all the negativity surrounding the sport, a couple of journalists were only too keen to point out that one of the biggest critics of F1 2015 is the sport's so-called supremo, Bernie Ecclestone.

Suddenly, most of what is wrong with the sport was there for all to see. Asked their opinion of some of Ecclestone's comments, including his alleged (and subsequently denied) claim that he had been given a "crap" product to sell, most of the panel remained silent, eyes wide open like rabbits caught in the headlights. Problems, what problems? Nothing to see here.

Unbelievably, Carter again blamed the media, suggesting that Ecclestone is influenced by it. "He reacts to what is written in the press," said the Lotus man.

Thankfully, Mallya was only too keen to address the issue.

"Formula One is perhaps the most exciting sport in the world," he began. "Probably has the highest viewership of all sports and, if Formula One is made sustainable for all participants I think the negativity will be removed. Having said that, and in specific reference to the question, the media can present two points of view: either they can say that the sport is very boring because the two Mercedes cars are quicker than everybody else by miles, or, they can say 'wow, Mercedes did a fantastic job'. It's a question of the media's option on how to present it.

"Having said that. I believe that all the positives of Formula One as a sport will be given more prominence if the fundamental issue, which everybody is speculating about - I'm sure many of us get asked these questions all the time - about 'are you going to be around next year?' This is a burning issue which teams themselves discuss at every possible opportunity and in every possible meeting, whether inside the strategy group or outside.

"If the stability of all participants in Formula One is addressed as a matter of priority, we will have more exciting racing and we will get a lot more positive media," he concluded.

"Can I just ask you all a straightforward question as businessmen as well as team principals," asked Kevin Eason of The Times. "If the chief executive of your company described your car, or your product as 'crap', would you expect him to be fired?"

In the audience, watching on TV, everyone and his dog knew to what Eason was referring, not so our panel, who for the most part played dumb pretending they didn't know precisely what was being asked and of whom. Again, not so Mallya.

"The specific question from Kevin is: how would I respond to the chief executive's comment that he had a crappy product to sell," he said. "He shouldn't be selling the product if he thought it was crap. But considering that he sells the product - that he calls crap and makes billions out of it - he needs to work with the participants to un-crap it!"

Brilliant, even the rabbits surrounding him had to laugh... even if they were not prepared to back him.

The Force India boss was to make several more references to "crap", further making his point and further showing up his colleagues.

As for that fan survey, asked about the initial findings at Thursday's press conference, only Jenson Button was prepared to answer. Fellow drivers, like their team bosses, opted to remain silent... even though it was they who purportedly backed the survey. After all, 'GPDA Fan Survey'... surely it's in the name.

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Published: 04/07/2015
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