There was some rather odd news out of India in the week leading up to the Indian GP. Apparently, Vijay Mallya’s Kingfisher Airlines is in some serious financial straits and has not been paying either its employees or the airports the airline flies to.
Last week it was widely reported that one such airport had actually gotten an indictment against Mallya and was planning on arresting him upon his arrival back into the country for the Indian GP. Since that story, the airport in question has been paid and the arrest warrant has been rescinded but trouble continues to brew.
That Mallya is in financial trouble should surprise no one. It has been widely reported for years that the empire was suffering from mismanagement, culminating most recently in a partial takeover of the Force India team by Sahara, who have since added their name to the team’s.
Next week, however, at the Indian GP, it seems that there are threats by Mallya’s employees to go on some sort of hunger strike to encourage payment of back salaries. The protesters see Mallya’s involvement in F1 as lavish, out of touch and indicative of an attitude that ignores the value of the work force.
And they are absolutely right. Mallya, more so than any other F1 outfit, has always seemed to be in the sport purely as an ego trip. Toro Rosso exist as a Red Bull B team. Williams has a long history as a racing team, as does Sauber. In some ways Force India Sahara is still very similar to the new teams on the grid in that I cannot distinguish why any of those particular brands are involved in F1 (save maybe Caterham).
Despite all this doom and gloom, though, we have to remember that this has been going on for years and Force India are still going strong. They have two outstanding drivers and a pretty good car this year.
So while common sense may call for Mallya to retreat and lick his wounds, that does not seem like a likely outcome. We will see what happens when Mallya arrives in India, particularly if he is forced to confront his employees.