Force India chief Vijay Mallya says he is ‘really excited’ about the driver line-up his team is planning for 2011, and hinted that an announcement is not far away.
With confirmation of Vitaly Petrov’s Lotus Renault deal and Jerome D’Ambrosio’s Virgin seat just before Christmas, plus Hispania revealing it had signed returnee Narain Karthikeyan earlier this week, the 2011 grid is now nearly complete, with the identity of Force India’s drivers the most significant missing piece.
Adrian Sutil’s contract has expired, but despite the German having looked at other options last autumn, he is expected to be re-signed for a fifth season at the team he initially joined when it was still known as Spyker.
Although Tonio Liuzzi has a Force India contract for this year and has repeatedly said he expects it to be honoured, there have been strong suggestions that the team will try to drop the Italian and promote its test driver Paul di Resta to a race seat instead.
In a message to fans on Facebook, Mallya said he was very satisfied with the driver pairing Force India had in mind for 2011.
“We’re currently closing our driver line-up and I’m really excited about what’s to come,” he wrote.
Mallya also said he was very pleased to see that at least one of his compatriots would be on the grid for the inaugural Indian Grand Prix now that Hispania had brought Karthikeyan back into the Formula 1 fold.
“I’m delighted that Narain is able to make his F1 comeback with HRT and I wish him every success in the coming year,” Mallya said.
“India should be proud that it will be fully represented in its inaugural Grand Prix by an Indian team and now an Indian driver.”
Although Karthikeyan had a run in Force India’s simulator last autumn and the Indian media has long been keen for the team to run an Indian driver, Mallya said a deal with the ex-Jordan driver had never really been an option.
“We have spoken to Narain over a period of time about returning and it just wasn’t the right time for us in this stage of our development,” Mallya explained.