Peter here. It has been quite a while since I have written an article on here. Part of the reason for this has been due to being overwhelmingly busy in my personal life - however we have not stood still with Auto India Sports and have been working behind the scenes. More on that later, right now though, here are some recent news stories that I have been meaning to catch up on.
Sahara Force India
Meanwhile looking forward, the team have signed Alfonso Celis Jr. as a development driver for the 2016 season. This will include appearing in seven practice sessions next year. Make no mistake, while I am a fan of Alfonso, you may need to temper expectations in the short term. He is by no means a complete driver, and while he has potential, his development rate has been quite slow. That's okay though, some drivers do develop faster than others, and Alfonso is improving all the time; the 19 year old got his first podium in GP3 earlier this year at Spa. However, let's be clear, this deal is more because of Alfonso's Mexican nationality tying up nicely with our current sponsors.
After the Abu Dhabi GP, Alfonso took part in a one day tyre test at the Yas Marina Circuit, along with Nico Hulkenberg. Nico finished 9th after 71 laps with a 1:45.852 and Alfonso finished 14th after 65 laps recording a 1:48.545. As always with testing, it is largely impossible to tell if that is comparatively quick or not. He didn't bin the car though .. so far so good!
GP2 also had a post-season test at Abu Dhabi, and Hilmer Motorsport/Sahara Force India did not take part. They had missed the last six races of the season also. The two years Force India have spent in that series have been absolutely dismal in all honesty, and what's happening with that programme? Who knows!
Meanwhile, discussions between Aston Martin and Sahara Force India are still on-going it seems, with Aston Martin most recently saying that they will wait until January to make a decision. It seems increasingly likely that if a deal does go through, the team will be renamed Aston Martin Racing, but will operate under the Indian nationality. While I could understand Vijay Mallya making that decision, I wouldn't feel entirely comfortable with that scenario and I would therefore personally prefer the deal to not go through. Sure, the money would help us develop quicker - but we can also do it on our own, albeit over a longer period of time - and I'm in no rush.
Honestly, I do not see the deal going through, at least not for 2016. In my opinion, if the deal was going to happen, discussions would not have taken this long. Plus, January will be too late in terms of the changes that Aston Martin would want to make ahead of the new season. At the moment, it is just a case of waiting for movement from either party - I am dubious about the deal though.
Oliver has consistently been a front runner in nearly all race series that he has taken part in, including quite comfortably taking the Formula Renault 3.5 title earlier this season. The 23 year old also won the prestigious McLaren Autosport BRDC Award in 2011. Previous winners of that award include David Coulthard, Jenson Button & Paul di Resta.
I do expect Bruno Senna to have about three tenths on Oliver this weekend, but only because Bruno has much more experience in the car. Oliver is a quick driver though, and I expect him to score points.
The other big news in Formula E this week was that the Trulli team have pulled out - and taking their place for season three will be my current employers; Jaguar. For those who do not know, the expanding car manufacturer are owned by Tata. From our point of view, it will be interesting to see if they enter as a British or Indian team. It is possible that there are two Indian teams on the Formula E grid for 2016. That would be mega!
Auto India Sports
Let me get one thing clear though, Auto India Sports are not going anywhere. I am keen to keep the organisation going, as I have big plans in the next decade or so - and I am continually working towards them. This also includes a name change from 2020 onwards - but I'll keep that to myself for now.
Anyhow, I am struggling a little bit to understand how to run Auto India Sports in parallel with Motorsport.com India. Any articles we could write here would be better on that site, as they have more resource and reach more fans. That being said though, I do think the Auto India Sports facebook page is somewhat unique, and deserves to continue in its current form.
I would be curious to get your thoughts on the matter and have created a survey here about what you would like to see, and it also reveals some ideas that are on the table ahead of the 2016 season. If you could take some time to complete the survey, I would be most grateful. It shouldn't take more than 10 minutes. I will be reading every response personally, so be as specific as you like - this is your opportunity to shape Auto India Sports. Thank you.