Sahara Force India has confirmed that Nico Hulkenberg will return to the team in 2014 after agreeing a multi-year deal. One presumes that Hulkenberg had a deal that pays him a part of his salary in advance because his previous stay with the team (in 2012) resulted in a rather lengthy payment process that went on long after he departed the team.
Force India has yet to announce his team-mate. Hulkenberg was holding out for a deal to join Lotus but that could only have happened if the Quantum investment in the team went ahead. Although talks about the deal are apparently ongoing it seems that Hulkenberg has given up waiting and decided that a return to Force India is his best option. It means that once again Hulkenberg is being kept out of the top teams because he does not have the funding to compete for a drive.
Force India may have finished sixth in the Constructors’ Championship but it buys in much of its technology from McLaren and needs to invest considerably if it is to move up to the next level in F1 in the future. Other teams, which have invested in their own infrastructure, should in theory be able to move ahead in the longer term, if they can maintain the running budgets that are required.
The announcement suggests that contrary to rumours the second Force India seat is not yet settled. Adrian Sutil and Sergio Perez are believed to be the two names in the frame, but other driver are known to have talked to the team. One presumes that this will depend on funding, although the team will probably deny this.
What is interesting is that in the last few weeks there has been a significant change in the shareholding structure of Orange India Holdings SARL, the Luxembourg-based parent company of the Force India F1 team. The shares in the holding company were owned by four companies linked to owners Roy Sahara, Vijay Mallya and Michiel Mol. Company filings in the UK indicated that Mallya and Sahara each owned 42.85 percent of the business, leaving the remaining 14.3 percent of the shares with Mol.
These shareholdings have now been altered as Orange India Holdings has agreed to issue an additional 966,636 shares to Sahara, which logically means that his shareholding rises from 42.85 percent to 52.38 percent, while the other two shareholder’s positioned are watered down: Mallya’s reducing to 35.7 percent percent and Mol’s goes down to just over 10 percent. This change appears to have been in exchange for a payment of around $33 million. This also suggests that on paper the team is valued at $353 million, which seems a rather high number. The details available are rather complicated and it is not clear whether the votes all have the save voting value, but they appear to.
For Roy Sahara, F1 is a small business, but his main empire is somewhat uncertain at the moment because the Supreme Court of India has barred him from leaving India and forbidden the Sahara group from selling any of it properties until it complies with an October 28 court order to hand over property title documents to the value of $3.2 billion to the Securities and Exchange Board of India as collateral for money that the group has to refund to its investors. One can only presume that the money that Sahara supplies to the team comes from companies that are not affected by the court order.
Whatever is going on in the background, one has to say that the small team from Silverstone has done a great job this year.