June 28, 2017 / 10:59 AM / 23 days ago

Motor racing: Vijay Mallya paves way for F1 team to be a force without India

3 Min Read

Force India co-owner, Vijay Mallya, leaves after an extradition hearing at Westminster Magistrates Court, in central London, Britain June 13, 2017.Hannah McKay

LONDON (Reuters) - Vijay Mallya, who is being pursued by Indian authorities over unpaid loans tied to his defunct Kingfisher Airlines, has taken steps that could see India disappear from the name of his Formula One team.

Listings at Companies House showed six businesses were registered to a London address on May 31 and June 6 using the Force One name.

A hack of Mallya's Twitter account last December revealed the same address, a terrace of mansions overlooking Regents Park, as his London residence.

The only named official for the companies -- Force One Grand Prix, Force One Racing, Force One Team, Force One Technology, Force One Hospitality and Force One Brand -- was Force India director Thiruvannamalai Ventkatesan Lakshmi Kanthan.

Kanthan is also sole director of Force One Consultancy, a company set up on June 2.

Mallya was quoted on June 14 as saying he was considering changing the name of the Silverstone-based team to make it more attractive to potential sponsors and give it more of an "international flavour".

"There are some people who believe the current name Force India is restrictive psychologically," he told Motorsport.com.

Former Indian Politician Vijay Mallya arrives for an extradition hearing at Westminster Magistrates Court in London, Britain, June 13, 2017.Hannah McKay

"I'm considering along with the other shareholders what steps to take but it's a major decision and one that is not going to be taken in a hurry without due consideration."

India has accused Mallya of fraud and is seeking the 61-year-old's extradition after he fled to Britain in March last year.

Banks are seeking to recover about $1.4 billion that the Indian authorities say Kingfisher owes. Mallya has repeatedly dismissed the charges against him.

Force India co-owner, Vijay Mallya, leaves after an extradition hearing at Westminster Magistrates Court, in central London, Britain June 13, 2017.Hannah McKay

Mallya attended only one Formula One race last year -- the British Grand Prix over the road from his team's factory. He said this month that there were no plans to sell the team, however.

Any application for a name change would have to be approved by the governing FIA and other teams through the Formula One Commission.

"Force India was born out of Vijay owning the team," chief operating officer Otmar Szafnauer told motorsport.com on Wednesday.

"Since then we’ve lost the Grand Prix there (in India), 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."

Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Pritha Sarkar

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