BARCELONA (Reuters) - Force India unveiled their new Formula One car on Monday but kept everyone guessing about what name they will race under this season.
The Silverstone-based team, who have finished fourth overall for the last two years, have been considering dropping the India from their name for some time to make themselves more attractive to potential sponsors.
Otmar Szafnauer, the chief operating officer, told Reuters on the first day of testing with the VJM11 car at Barcelona’s Circuit de Catalunya that they had a new name in mind but gave no details.
He said it was “more than likely” to be changed before the first race of the season in Australia on March 25. The team had previously said such a change could happen before the start of testing.
“We’re talking to some people that are thinking of perhaps sponsoring the team and they are keen for a name change, but that’s not for 2018, That’s for 2019,” Szafnauer added.
“So it could very well be that it goes until ‘19 but, you know, why wait? That’s why I say it’s probably more likely than not that it will happen.”
Any change of team name has to be approved by Formula One, with a majority of the teams also voting in favor.
Szafnauer said Force India had yet to make the formal request.
Force India, who have Mexican driver Sergio Perez again partnering Frenchman Esteban Ocon this season, announced new sponsors in Mexican oil company Pemex and lubricants company Ravenol.
The team are co-owned by tycoon Vijay Mallya and Sahara Group founder Subrata Roy, who have both had well-documented legal problems.
Mallya, who is also team principal, is fighting a request to extradite him from Britain to face fraud charges in India related to the collapse of his Kingfisher Airlines.
Roy’s embattled Sahara conglomerate has been involved in its own long-running dispute after being ordered to repay billions of dollars to investors in bonds that were ruled to have been mis-sold.
Russian development driver Nikita Mazepin gave the pink liveried car its track debut, with Perez and Ocon testing on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Thursday’s plans remained uncertain after Canadian reserve Nicholas Latifi withdrew for health reasons.
“A serious infection put me in hospital last week and I’m now recovering at home,” the 22-year-old said on Twitter. “Aiming to be back on track in the next four weeks.”
Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Ed Osmond