Force India still racing in Hungary despite court hearing
BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) — Sergio Perez revealed he took legal action against Force India to save the future of the Formula One team by forcing it into administration.
The Silverstone-based team went into administration following a court hearing late Friday in London. Action was brought against the team by the Mexican driver, and supported by creditors which include engine supplier Mercedes.
Force India was at the Hungarian Grand Prix, continuing to race. Perez qualified 19th on Saturday, and teammate Esteban Ocon 18th.
After qualifying, Perez said his actions were taken with the team’s interests at heart. Although he is owed 3 million pounds ($3.9 million) from the team through sponsorship deals, he says he is more concerned with the future of hundreds of employees working for Force India.
“The last month or so has been extremely tough for me,” Perez said at the Hungaroring circuit. “We got to a point where action had to be taken, to protect the 400 people that work in the team.”
Perez, who has competed in nearly 150 F1 races, stepped in, albeit against his wishes.
“I should not really like to be involved in this because at the end of the day I’m just a driver, but it got too much, and I was asked by a couple of members of the team to go ahead and save the team,” he said. “There was a winding up petition from another customer, which would have closed down the team completely. Therefore, I was asked to basically save the team, to pull the trigger, and put the team into administration.”
Perez reiterated that his personal financial situation was not the issue.
“It has nothing to do with my outstanding amounts,” he said. “The bottom line of this is that we either do this or the team will have gone bust.”
Force India, which is co-owned by Vijay Mallya, finished fourth in the constructors’ championship last year with one of the smallest budgets in F1.
After 11 of 21 races, Force India is fifth overall.
On Thursday, Perez expressed his ongoing concerns by calling the financial situation “critical” as the team looks for potential buyers.
Force India reportedly owes more than 10 million pounds ($13 million) to engine supplier Mercedes, in addition to what it owes Perez.
“The more money you have in this game, usually the better you do,” Force India chief operating officer Otmar Szafnauer said. “We are just in this critical period, which might last a week or two. We have to keep our heads down.”
Szafnauer remains confident of a resolution, as F1 prepares to head into a four-week summer break following Sunday’s race.
″(Investment) is imminent,” Szafnauer said. “I know there are discussions going on in the background.”
Force India also faces uncertainty over driver Esteban Ocon’s future.
The 21-year-old Frenchman, highly regarded and tipped as a future title contender, has been linked with a move to Renault.
“It’s fine for him to go but we have to agree to that,” Szafnauer said. “We won’t stand in his way.”
The championship resumes on Aug. 26 at the Belgian GP.
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Jerome Pugmire is at www.twitter.com/jeromepugmire