Vijay Mallya insists commercial interests had no bearing on Force India’s decision to sign Sergio Perez on a multi-year Formula 1 deal.
Perez is understood to be bringing a commercial package believed to be worth around 15 million euros [$21m]. Mallya admitted Perez’s arrival would present the team with new “opportunities,” but said the decisive factor in negotiations had been the Mexican’s hunger to prove himself after his McLaren exit that.
“I will not compromise the quality of my drivers for money; that is not my philosophy,” Mallya said when asked if Perez’s backing had been a consideration for the team. “I could have retained either of my existing drivers, but at the end of the day we’ve had them, and had long relationships with both.
“I consulted my other team members and they all said new car, new regulations, lets get a new set of drivers who have fire in their belly, who are really hungry. Sergio fits that bill. He is a gutsy guy, very hungry, and that is what we need.
“There might be opportunities going forward in Mexico and Latin America through Sergio, and that part of the world was totally closed to us. But I don’t believe in the paid driver concept. I’ve had many opportunities in the past to take paid drivers and that is not the philosophy of Force India. [Finance] was absolutely [irrelevant].”
Mallya said that the combination of Nico Hulkenberg and Perez was also the best lineup he had presided over.
“Absolutely [it is the best], I’m very excited about it,” he said. “The combination of Checo and Nico works fantastically for me.
“My thought process was very simple: when Sergio drove for Sauber he certainly caught my eye, he was very quick. McLaren, a world class team, obviously saw something in him which I had also seen. I’ve also always had my eye on Nico, and I told him as early as Malaysia that if he was going to change he better come back home.
“I was reading AUTOSPORT‘s poll where all team principals had to vote for their top-10 drivers, and Nico was No. 7 on the list. Having the seventh-best driver in F1 is a huge compliment — and he is driving for me.”