Force India Developing as China F1 Remains A Global Spectator

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Force India Developing as China F1 Remains A Global Spectator

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The Indian team Force India, while yet to get of the bottom of the pile, came close to winning their first F1 points in Shanghai last week. The team sports the Indian flag as its team colors and has attracted sponsorship from Indian companies Kingfisher, ICICI Bank, Reliance Industries and Kanyan Capital.

Force India was formed after Indian businessmen Vijay Mallya and Michiel Mol bought the Spyker F1 team for US$115 million. The team races its own designed cars, powered by Mercedes-Benz, and was able to rise from 18th to as high as sixth with just 5 laps to go. What would have been the first points of the season for Force India slipped away when Adrian Sutil’s car hydroplaned off the track and into the tire wall. Force India has been in the hunt over the last few races, but a combination of bad luck and occasional driving mistakes has left them empty handed to date.

With Delhi being added to the Grand Prix circuit in 2011, Force India are learning and may well be a team to reckon with by the time the Delhi Grand Prix arrives. The team has just signed a five year agreement with Mercedes for engines, and a partisan Indian crowd in Delhi may make a large impact at the event.

The participation in, and rise to prominence of an Indian team in F1 is in marked contrast to China, which despite having hosted the F1 in Shanghai for the past few years, does not field a competing team. This is somewhat surprising, given that both China and India are poised to be the world’s largest auto markets in the next two to three years, with more vehicles having been sold last year in China than in the United States for the first time.

The Chinese logic for hosting the event, but not participating, seems a little skewed. The Chinese government pays Formula One about US$50million each year to host the Shanghai event, yet the country has not followed that up with a competing presence, cars or drivers, in the rest of the series. The prices to attend the Shanghai event also seem bizarre if China wants to use it to promote its auto industry. Shanghai wages averaging at about US$500 a month, that’s equivalent to the price of the cheapest ticket on offer for the Shanghai F1. You’d need to charge US$4,000 to attend the Indianapolis 500 in the United States to achieve a similar disparity.
So while Force India prepares the world for Indian cars and trucks – Tata having already acquired global brands Jaguar and Land Rover, and about to launch Tata as a brand name in Europe and the United States through the Nano and its trucking division – the Chinese are just not getting on board. It’s a curious state of affairs, especially since F1 have apparently re-signed with Shanghai to host the event for another seven years. US$50 million seems a lot to pay for a one off annual event that the local Chinese cannot generally afford to attend, in which no Chinese team participates, in a 17 race series which is broadcast globally and attracts hundreds of millions of viewers.

Force India meanwhile are pushing forward at the top end the concept of Indian vehicles as reliable, and developing India as a manufacturing brand in auto that will assist its national auto manufacturers integrate into and penetrate international markets.

I’d love to see a Chinese team participate in F1. But perhaps, while the Chinese auto industry remains largely under state ownership, a once-a-year Shanghai Grand Prix is deemed enough to promote the Chinese auto industry globally. If that is the case, the advent of Force India as a competing team may be a bridge too far for the Chinese state marketing strategists when it comes to developing Team China as a brand on which its domestic auto industry can begin to globally compete.

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Source by Chris Devonshire-ellis

Photo by pedrosimoes7

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