LONDON (Reuters) - Embattled Force India co-owner Vijay Mallya will not be attending Sunday’s Spanish Grand Prix but he is hoping for a change of fortune on the track at least for his Formula One team in Barcelona.
The Indian government last month revoked Mallya’s diplomatic passport, which he had been entitled to as a member of the upper house of parliament, and asked Britain to deport him.
Indian bankers are seeking repayment of about $1.4 billion owed by his defunct Kingfisher Airlines. He told the Financial Times at the end of April that he was in “forced exile” and had no plans to leave Britain.
The team confirmed that the 60-year-old beer baron, who has missed all four races so far this season and looks unlikely to be able to get to one until the British Grand Prix in July, would be absent from Barcelona’s Circuit de Catalunya.
The Force India principal’s financial problems have made more headlines than the results of team drivers Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez this season but Mallya hoped a package of aerodynamic upgrades would bring some good news.
“It’s on schedule to be fitted to both cars ahead of Friday practice,” the Indian said in a team preview for the race. “It’s pretty comprehensive and the car will look quite different.”
A team spokesman said the upgrades would affect the bodywork around the cars’ sidepods, front wing and floor.
Mercedes-powered Force India, who achieved a best ever finish of fifth overall in the 2015 constructors’ championship, have scored only eight points so far in 2016 and are eighth in the standings.
Both drivers have suffered misfortune and accidents, caught up in chaos on the first lap of the most recent race in Russia.
“I hope we’ve used up all of our bad luck already,” said Mallya. “We’ve yet to see how we perform in a clean, trouble-free race without safety cars, red flags or accidents.
“Despite not realising our potential in Sochi (the Russian Grand Prix), we took encouragement from our qualifying and race pace: the car is improving and we’ve got a good base on which to build.”
Editing by Tony Jimenez
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