Mallya dismisses Abiteboul’s suggestion that Force India won’t keep up

Vijay Mallya takes a photo of the new Force India VJM10 . (Photo: LAT Photographic)
Jakob Ebrey/LAT Images

Force India boss Vijay Mallya is adamant that his team can challenge for a top-three position in 2017, having finish fourth last year.

Mallya was also keen to dismiss suggestions from Renault’s Cyril Abiteboul, who suggested that smaller teams won’t be able match the development of bigger rivals this season.

“We shall always dream big,” said Mallya. “We have never had conversations, even in private, that we cannot make it into the top three. That’s certainly our objective. I read an article this morning where Cyril Abiteboul of Renault said that smaller teams such as Force India are going to suffer in this arms race. Good luck to him, he might have to eat his words. It’s not the amount of arms you have, it’s the quality of your weaponry.

“The 2017 regulations have meant that everybody has to start with a clean slate. I don’t think we will know the likely pecking order before the test in Barcelona, but I know that we have to continue to develop this car right through the 2017 season. There’s no stopping, because we’re starting from scratch. All teams will probably be doing the same. We have planned for it, and we’re very excited.”

Mallya is excited by the combination of Sergio Perez and newcomer Esteban Ocon.

“Checo has been brilliant, he is a true racer, he’s fearless, he’s got loads of talent, and he just loves to go racing. He’s been very successful for us, and I heard him tell me when he took a quick look at this car that he’s never felt so excited looking at a car before. I think that says it all.

“Esteban is a very, very talented youngster. When Hulkenberg decided to move on we obviously spent a lot of time thinking through who we would hire as a replacement. Esteban has tested with us before, so we had some data on him. We then put him in the simulator. He impressed all of us, and so we made the decision. He’s young, he’s talented, he has limited experience of F1, but more importantly he’s willing to learn.”