Sunday, December 12, 2010

Driven Personalities - Vijay Mallya

It was a hot and sweaty affair at the 2008 Australian Grand Prix at Albert Park Not only was it 32C, but the newly-arrived Force India Formula One team were sweating through qualifying and practice. The cars qualified 17 and 19 on the grid, and sadly both were forced to retire from the race, but watching the team in the pits and paddock I thought they showed real potential.

The new team owner, Vijay Mallya, and I met in the swish Force India hospitality area over a Campari, where he very calmly told me, "It's early days, and I intend to see that this team has the facilities and the funds to improve. I want to see us in the Top Ten".

Brave words, but by the 2010 season Force India was earning points and making regular appearances in the Top Ten.

I spoke with him on the eve of the 2010 Australian Grand Prix, and not only was he buoyed by the day's practice results, but he was confident greater achievements lay ahead.

Vijay Mallya is a "commercial" Prince of India. He is a member of the 'new' Indian Royalty, a CEO of a sprawling empire his father started by selling beer to the British army. But the group of companies inherited by Vijay has grown and prospered under his leadership. His foray into Formula One is not folly, but a smart and prescient move into Indian motor sport just as India gets set to host its first Grand Prix in 2011.

Vijay is no stranger to sport however, he already owns the Royal Bangalore Tigers cricket team, and has started a scheme to introduce aspiring young Indian racers to motor racing.

He's an impressive businessman, entrepreneur, and generous host. With his drive and management savvy, watch Force India in it's continuing push to match wits and results with the big F1 teams.

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