Force India Team Principal Vijay Mallya has relinquished his directorship post at the team, saying he has his “own legal issues to take care of” which should not be a distraction to the team.
The 62-year-old will retain his shareholding and remain as Team Principal at the Silverstone outfit, but is expected to nominate his son Siddarth to take his place on the board.
Speaking to Autosport, Mallya claims his decision was to protect the Formula 1 team from any distraction due to his ongoing legal issues.
Mallya is currently fighting an extradition challenge from the UK to India to face charges of fraud and money-laundering. His passport has been seized and he remains holed up in the United Kingdom, running the team from his multi-million dollar mansion in Hertfordshire which was formerly owned by Lewis Hamilton’s father Anthony.
Earlier this month he lost a separate lawsuit filed in the UK by Indian banks seeking to collect more than £1.15 billion in debts.
India’s Securities and Exchange Board has also barred him from accessing the securities market in India for three years and holding any managerial or director-level position in any listed company for the next five years.
Mallya again downplayed suggestions that the team is close to being sold, despite persistent rumours that a number of parties are in negotiations to acquire it.
“Rumours keep going on and on and on, and people talk and talk and talk. That’s what the F1 paddock is all about,” he said.
“The finances of Force India, whether I’m selling or not selling, has been a matter of speculation on and off for many years.
“We don’t go around with a for ‘sale sign.’ The bottom line is that we are focussing on getting the best performance out of the car, and that is our priority. We’re focussing on getting more sponsors.
“There are three shareholders, remember, I’m not the only one. If somebody comes along with a serious offer, and puts cash on the table, we will jointly consider it.”
Mallya’s claims have some degree of truth, but the reality is that a sale is desperately needed to protect the team. Mallya and team co-owner Subrata Roy are in major financial and legal trouble, and while the sale of the team will do little to alleviate their financial position it will at least keep the team going.
The team’s current shareholders – the third being the Mol group that headed the team’s former owner, Spyker – are seemingly unwilling to accept the size of the offers being put to them.
Image via Force India F1 Team