Force India's Vijay Mallya Makes Moves To Change Name Of The F1 Team
Formula 1 team Force India co-Owner Vijay Mallya "has taken steps that could see India disappear" from the name of his team, according to Alan Baldwin of REUTERS. Listings at Companies House showed six businesses were registered to a London address on May 31 and June 6 using the Force One name. A hack of Mallya's Twitter account last December revealed the same address, "a terrace of mansions overlooking Regents Park," as his London residence. The only named official for the companies -- Force One Grand Prix, Force One Racing, Force One Team, Force One Technology, Force One Hospitality and Force One Brand -- was Force India Dir Thiruvannamalai Ventkatesan Lakshmi Kanthan. Kanthan "is also sole director of Force One Consultancy," a company set up on June 2 (REUTERS, 6/28). AUTOSPORT reported Mallya "is planning a change to a more generic name in an attempt to open up options for sponsorship," given that it has proven "hard to raise funds in India." Force India COO Otmar Szafnauer admitted that aside from Mallya's own Kingfisher brand, there had only been "a couple, but not very many" Indian sponsors and that the loss of the nation's F1 grand prix after '13 had "effectively stalled interest." A new name "would also potentially make it easier to sell a shareholding in the team." Traditionally, former F1 CEO Bernie Ecclestone "did not make it easy for teams to change names without good reason, but Szafnauer is optimistic." Szafnauer said, "I think there's a spirit of cooperation in that regard" (AUTOSPORT, 6/28). SKY SPORTS' Jonathan Green reported Szafnauer confirmed at the Azerbaijan GP that the team "hoped to rebrand" for the '18 season in a bid to have "greater global appeal." He said, "Dropping the India, we've had the discussion, I think it makes sense. We used to have an Indian GP, we don't anymore, we had Indian sponsors at one point and now we have none. Sometimes India in the name will limit the opportunities, especially for sponsorship, so if we drop that it will broaden our horizons a bit and I think it makes sense." Asked when it might happen, Szafnauer said, "Probably end of season" (SKY SPORTS, 6/28).