Force India, the country's first and only Formula One team, could become a lot more Mexican after signing Sergio Perez on a multi-year contract alongside cureent driver Nico Hulkenberg - a move that has thrown British driver Paul di Resta's future into doubt.
Team co-owner and principal Vijay Mallya told reporters at the Mexican ambassador's residence in central London on Thursday that the Guadalajara-born driver's arrival would be reflected in the sponsors appearing on the cars and overalls.
“Obviously, the signing of Sergio opens up a whole new opportunity for us in that part of the world,” said the beer and spirits tycoon. “We will certainly target sponsors from Mexico and other Latin American countries.
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“Traditionally, the cars and team kit have carried a lot of the brands of the owners of Sahara Force India, but that's changing and, particularly with the new venues in Formula One, is likely to change even further in the future.”
Mallya owns 37.4 percent of India's United Breweries, which makes the country's top-selling Kingfisher beer.
The branding of Scotch Whisky maker Whyte&Mackay has been prominent on Force India cars since Mallya's United Spirits bought the distiller, as well as the same company's Vladivar vodka brand.
However, Britain's Diageo acquired a controlling interest in United Spirits in July and has talked of selling those whisky assets to meet competition requirements.
Formula One has dropped the Indian Grand Prix from the 2014 calendar, with no guarantee of the race near New Delhi coming back in 2015, along with South Korea.
Mexico is in line to return in 2015 while the Middle East, where non-alcoholic fizz is sprayed on the post-race podiums in Bahrain and Abu Dhabi, is increasingly flexing its financial muscle in the sport.
Perez has been backed by Mexican fixed line telephone operator Telmex, owned by billionaire Carlos Slim's America Movil, throughout his career and he said that would continue at Force India.
“It's between Force India and Telmex now to negotiate how they will be,” he said. “but Telmex has been part of my career since a long time ago so I expect them to be with me again.”
“For sure there will be sponsors coming.”
There is a lot of interest in Mexico so there are going to be good sponsors who plan to come on board with my project.”
However, Mallya said Perez, who joins after a difficult year at McLaren, had been signed on performance rather than the money he might bring in.
“We haven't chosen any one of our two drivers because of any commercial backing at all,” said the drinks tycoon. “That's against my basic philosophy.
“Sergio’s presence opens up a whole new opportunity for us, but that is not a pre-condition for us having selected him.” - Reuters