Fugitive businessman Vijay Mallya-owned Force India Formula 1 team could be rebranded as ‘Force One’ after its top official Otmar Szafnauer hinted at a name change for the Silverstone-based outfit to attract more global sponsors. The tainted businessman, who is wanted in India for unpaid loans in connection with the defunct Kingfisher Airlines, himself had earlier said that he was considering a name change. The first possible step has been taken in that direction with motorsport.com possessing a document which reveals that sixes companies were registered to a London address on May 31 and June 6 under the Force One name. The only director of the companies listed is Thiruvannamalai Laskshimi Kanthan, a financial consultant and long-time associate of Mallya. Kanthan is also a Force India director.
Force India COO Szafnauer said that it makes sense to change the team’s name. “Force India was born out of Vijay owning the team,” COO Otmar Szafnauer was quoted as saying by motorsport.com. “His hopes that some India companies would sponsor us. As it turned out, there were a couple, but not very many. He also hoped that India would have a Grand Prix, which happened. With the Grand Prix and a couple of our sponsors, it made sense to have Force India’s name. “Since then we’ve lost the Grand Prix there, the Indian sponsors no longer were interested in sponsoring us. Now we have no Indian sponsors whatsoever, apart from Vijay’s Kingfisher. “So it kind of makes sense to change it from India in order to attract sponsors more globally, and not restrict ourselves to being Force India,” he added. If the team goes ahead with the name change, it would have to be approved by motorsport governing body FIA.
Mallya co-owns Force India alongside Sahara Group with both having a 42.5 percent stake while the remaining 15 percent is with Dutch businessman Michiel Mol. Force India, into their 10th season, is a midfield squad known for punching above its weight. The team recorded its best ever finish last year when it was placed a creditable fourth ahead of well-established names like Williams and McLaren. It is also running fourth in the current season standings. It had changed the livery before the start of the season, moving to a pink colour scheme which attracted wide attention.