F1: Could Force India have an all-British driver line-up?

By LJ Hutchins

CalendarWednesday, December 10th, 2008


Sick of the grim news from Brackley? Needing to play a little mental ‘fantasy F1 team manager’ to raise your spirits? Well, here’s a far-fetched proposition to put a smile on your face.

Could Force India possibly start the 2009 season with two British drivers in its cars?

Unlikely, we know. As people keep pointing out, Adrian Sutil and Giancarlo Fisichella are firmly contracted for next year. But that apparently isn’t enough to end the rumours.

It all centres around the new technical and engine partnership with McLaren Mercedes. A month or two ago the papers were full of stories about young Scots hopeful Paul di Resta cutting his teeth with the backmarker team.

November’s Barcelona test saw McLaren chief tester Pedro de la Rosa in in the Force India car, sparking a new round of speculation – although we liked the theory of a golden opportunity for the team to get a close look at a Ferrari engine.

Now his colleague Gary Paffett is the one to be pencilled in. Like di Resta he’s been driving for Mercedes in DTM and has made quite a name for himself there.

He was recently characterised by The Sun as “Britain’s forgotten man of F1,” in a story that claimed he’s eyeing a race seat for next season:

Paffett to get F1 chance

The long-time McLaren Mercedes test driver has emerged as a contender for a seat with F1 minnows Force India.

The chance has come about thanks to McLaren’s recent technological tie-up with Indian tycoon Vijay Mallya’s squad.

Mallya, whose Silverstone-based team will use Mercedes engines in 2009, says he is open to suggestions from McLaren about drivers.

And 27-year-old Paffett, who has test experience with McLaren going back to 2001 and is highly regarded by the team, is an obvious contender.

While that contains more speculation than hard fact, we liked this line that comes further down: “[Paffett] could yet end up spearheading the manufacturer’s 2009 challenge in the hi-tech touring car series.”

Sounds good to us. In the meantime, Fisi continues to make it quite clear that he’s prepared to see off all comers.

He recently told Formula1.com: “The line-up has been announced in China in October by Vijay, and I trust people who trust me.

“I originally signed a two-year contract which was reviewed in September to incorporate the McLaren deal. In a few words, the team offered me a better car and a different package.

“I accepted their proposal and both sides signed the new document between Singapore and China. This is why Dr Mallya made the announcement in Shanghai.”

So, is all this pie in the sky? As always with F1, we’ll just have to wait and see what transpires by March…

2 responses to “F1: Could Force India have an all-British driver line-up?”:

  1. Keith Collantine Says:

    December 10th, 2008 at 5:32 pm

    Nowadays it’s very unusual to have two drivers of the same nationality in one team, because it automatically restricts one of the most useful marketing resources they have to just a single nation. Super Aguri tried to make a virtue of having two Japanese drivers in 2006 but it didn’t bring the home sponsors flocking in as they hoped.

    The irony of a team named after a country which is a former British colony running two British drivers would be unfortunate as well!

  2. ljh Says:

    December 10th, 2008 at 5:50 pm

    Interesting thoughts, Keith. But, with no Indian driver currently far enough down the development route, and the unusual circumstances of the McLaren Mercedes tie in, is this the time when the usual rules go out the window?

    Personally I think that this is all so much off-season thumb-twiddling and at least one and probably both of Fisi and Sutil will start for the team in March. But the idea’s too good to waste if you happen to run a site about British drivers and their careers…

    And, on a more realistic note, wouldn’t it be great if Paffett got a really decent car in DTM?

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