Force India Start Process To Change Name To Force One
The name change comes as the team is looking for sponsors while its owners are facing legal trouble.
Force India, whose owner Vijay Mallya faces legal troubles, has started the process of changing the name of his Formula One team. Recently, six names have been registered with the UK's Companies House: Force One Racing, Force One Technologies, Force One Hospitality, Force One Team, Force One Brand, and Force One Grand Prix.
Those newly listed companies share an address known to belong to Mallya. In fact, at the time that these other companies were being created, Mallya listed a new one under his name as well, Boozman Limited, registered to the same London address. The sole person listed as an officer for each Force One company is Thiruvannamalai Ventkatesan Lakshmi Kanthan, who was a former director at Force India.
With Force India having a strong season following their fourth place finish in the F1 Constructor's Championship last year, the team is looking to bring on more sponsors. Mallya recently told Motorsport.com, "There are some people who believe the current name Force India is restrictive psychologically."
With the failed Indian Grand Prix only having been run from 2011 to 2013, Mallya is looking for investors outside India. Up until this year, his own companies were the main sponsors of the team. Kingfisher Beer, Kingfisher Airlines (which is the company related to Mallya's legal trouble), and several other Mallya-related alcohol brands featured prominently on the race cars.
The other half of the official team name (Sahara Force India) is Indian conglomerate Sahara India Pariwa, which owns 42.5% of the racing team, is facing legal troubles as well. Its owner, Subrata Roy, faces charges of financial crimes, not unlike Mallya.
With a very tangled web of legal issues surrounding its owners, Force India may be doing more than trying to attract new sponsors. The more likely scenario is that they are setting the stage for the team to be sold. Rumors have been going around about a potential sale to any number of people or companies for some time now.
When an F1 team changes name or ownership, the change can drastically affect how much of the yearly prize money the team receives. Changing the name in advance of the sale and keeping that new name after the sale is one way to keep that flow of prize money coming in, assuming the FIA signs off on everything.
It's all very complicated, but if things aren't done in the right order, the newly purchased and renamed team may not be eligible to receive prize money from previous seasons. It's thought that Force India took home about $67 million for the 2016 season. If they finish in fourth place again this year, that amount will likely go up in 2017. Selling a team with a guarantee of tens of millions of dollars in prize money yet to come in is some big-time curb appeal for potential buyers.
It would greatly benefit the owners of Force India to sell the team sooner on their own terms rather than being forced to do so by the courts. The worst-case scenario would be having the team seized by the courts as an asset to be auctioned off. That is not likely to happen for some time, and only if both majority owners are found guilty of the crimes they are accused of.