Force India to get investment boost

SAO PAULO Thu Nov 22, 2012 3:06am IST

Force India Formula One driver Nico Hulkenberg of Germany drives during the qualifying session of the U.S. F1 Grand Prix at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas November 17, 2012. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith

Force India Formula One driver Nico Hulkenberg of Germany drives during the qualifying session of the U.S. F1 Grand Prix at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas November 17, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Robert Galbraith

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SAO PAULO (Reuters) - Force India will have a 50 million pound boost to help them move up the Formula One grid after a strong performance this year, the team's co-owner Vijay Mallya announced on Wednesday.

"We had a board meeting in India after the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and the board has approved a 50 million pound capital investment programme for the team," he said in a preview for Sunday's season-ending Brazilian Grand Prix.

"We are going to invest heavily in new technology and give more tools to our design team to try and move further up the grid."

Liquor and aviation tycoon Mallya is principal of the British-based team that he co-owns with the Sahara Group, who have a 42.5 percent stake.

Force India are seventh overall on 99 points, 25 behind sixth-placed Sauber and 23 ahead of Williams in eighth, and are almost certain to stay in that position now unless they or Williams have an astonishing result on Sunday.

They finished sixth last year, but with only 69 points, and their current tally is the most they have managed since Mallya bought the struggling Spyker (previously Jordan) team in 2007.

"Every year we've demonstrated that we've gone up the ladder," said Mallya. "And we've taken fairly significant steps, not just baby steps. Given the tools that we have, which are mostly of the Jordan era, we have done exceptionally well."

Sahara invested $100 million in Force India when they bought into the team in October 2011 and Mallya has said the money would be paid in three tranches over three years with the final instalment due in 2013.

No details were given on Wednesday about the time frame for the latest investment.

Both Mallya and Sahara have attracted negative headlines recently, with the former's Kingfisher airline grounded while the Sahara Group was ordered in August to refund about $4.6 billion to investors after India's Supreme Court ruled finance schemes run by two of its companies were illegal.

Mallya, one of India's richest men, also agreed a $2.1 billion deal this month to sell a majority stake in his United Spirits Ltd to Diageo Plc.

Sunday's race at Interlagos will be German Nico Hulkenberg's last with the team before he moves to Swiss-based Sauber.

Hulkenberg, who has scored 53 of the team's points so far, took pole position against the odds for Williams on his last outing in Brazil in 2010 and Mallya praised his contribution to Force India.

"Nico has been one of the stars this season. He's delivered exactly what we expected of him and brought a lot to this team. He has a big future in Formula One and we wish him well," said the Indian.

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Mark Meadows)

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