Mallya to attend Grand Prix
Force India co-owner Vijay Mallya will defy his critics this weekend by appearing at his home grand prix in India.
Mallya has been in the public eye in India of late, notably failing to pay employees of one of his many companies, Kingfisher Airlines, for the last seven months.
With total debts believed to be running at around £1.5billion as the airline has never made a profit over its seven years in existence, the planes have been grounded since the start of this month.
A protest had been planned by employees for the Buddh International Circuit on Thursday, with authorities on alert after a prior demonstration earlier this month turned violent.
That was aborted, however, in light of further talks between staff and management, with the former group agreeing to return to work in light of being promised four of the seven months' back pay.
Just over a week ago it emerged an arrest warrant had been issued against Mallya and other high-profile figures of Kingfisher Airlines over an unpaid debt to Hyderabad Airport.
That, though, has since been rescinded in light of the debt being paid, but the furore only added to the increased tension regarding Mallya, one of India's richest men.
Mallya's empire includes United Spirits, the second biggest drinks company in the world to Diageo; United Breweries, which produces 70 per cent of all of India's beers; a cricket team, two football teams, a string of racehorses, as well as his dual-control interest in Force India.
Mallya has long stated his stake in the Silverstone-based marque is a wholly separate enterprise away from his other interests.
With any protest now averted, deputy team principal Bob Fernley has no doubts Mallya will be present over the weekend for qualifying and the race.
Whether Mallya uses his private jet, though, remains to be seen as it has been suggested it would be impounded should he attempt to enter his home country by such means.
Despite the problems surrounding Mallya, Fernley maintains it is "business as usual" as far as the Formula One team is concerned.
"As far as I know Vijay is due in tomorrow evening," said Fernley.
"He won't be at the circuit tomorrow, but he'll arrive Saturday, do qualifying and come in for the race on Sunday."
With regard to the proposed backlash threat from Kingfisher staff, Fernley added: "Obviously you have to have sympathy for the employees of Kingfisher Airlines. Huge sympathy.
"But it's a little unfair to blame Vijay. At the end of the day it's a public company, and Vijay is one of the shareholders involved.
"He's the face of Kingfisher, the chairman, so rightly it stops with him. In terms of where they've got to go, it's a shareholder process.
"It's not just one person dictating it. The shareholders have got to make those decisions as a group.
"My feeling is no Kingfisher Airline personnel have any negative thoughts to Sahara Force India personnel or the success of Sahara Force India. They are two completely separate entities."
As to the future of Force India, such questions are nothing new for Fernley as he said: "We've had doom and gloom for five years in terms of where the media have been with us, so nothing new.
"But we are still here, we are still competing, and each year we improve."
Paul di Resta also shrugged off suggestions he may not be with the team next season should they fall by the wayside, even though he has a contract for 2013.
Di Resta, whose contract has been paid by Force India unlike the pilots of Kingfisher Airlines, said: "As far as I'm aware the two companies are separate.
"There is a Formula One division, then there are Vijay's other two businesses, and I'm employed to race a car. That's what I do.
"Anything else is not something I can influence, not something I've control over.
"The team is going along at the moment. Everything seems as normal as it is"
One man firmly behind Mallya is F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone who said: "I've known Vijay for 30-odd years, and during his life he has had ups and downs.
"If he's on a down, and I don't know if he is, he will be up again.
"But I don't think Vijay's problem will affect the team - I hope it doesn't affect him because he is a good guy."