November 30, 2018 / 5:00 PM / 16 days ago

New Force India owner targets top three and a profit

LONDON (Reuters) - Force India can become a profitable Formula One team fighting for a place in the top three, according to owner Lawrence Stroll.

FILE PHOTO: Formula One F1 - Mexican Grand Prix - Qualifying Session - Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, Mexico City, Mexico - October 27, 2018. Williams' Canadian driver Lance Stroll walks in the pits. Alfredo Estrella/Pool via Reuters/File Photo

The Canadian billionaire, who rescued the British-based team from administration in August, told the New York Times in an interview that he saw Force India as a good business opportunity.

Stroll’s 20-year-old son Lance was confirmed on Friday as one of the drivers and the takeover has been seen as a move to provide him with a more competitive seat than he had at struggling Williams.

“I’m not in this for ego. I’m not in this to lose money. I’m in this for the long term, as I have been with every other business I’ve owned, be it Tommy Hilfiger, Michael Kors or whoever,” said Stroll senior.

The Montreal-based Canadian, who made his fortune by investing in global fashion brands, bought the Mont Tremblant circuit in Quebec 18 years ago and has been closely involved in his son’s career.

His Force India consortium includes Canadian entrepreneur Andre Desmarais, Jonathan Dudman, John Idol, telecoms investor John McCaw Jr, Michael de Picciotto and Stroll’s business partner Silas Chou.

Stroll said in the interview, carried out at the season’s penultimate race in Brazil in early November, that he had looked at the numbers and assessed where the sport was going under U.S.-based owners Liberty Media.

“It’s no secret there’s going to be some sort of a budget cap and better cash distribution to the smaller teams,” said Stroll.

“That is still to be clarified how well that works out, but there are all the right rumblings, and I’ve had enough conversations with (F1 chairman) Chase (Carey) to understand that is the direction they want and need to take the business.

“For me, that spells financial opportunity, and looking at 2021 onwards, a profitable business opportunity.”

Liberty has said it wants a more sustainable sport with a fairer distribution of revenues and a budget cap to ensure a more level playing field.

“With the right funding, the right leadership, the right motivation, there’s no reason we shouldn’t have high expectations and be able to punch even higher above our weight, to hopefully be fighting for that third place,” said Stroll.

Force India finished fourth overall in 2016 and 2017, the best of the rest in a sport dominated by Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull.

They ended up seventh this year, with the season finishing in Abu Dhabi last weekend, after starting again from scratch following the takeover. Stroll junior will partner Mexican Sergio Perez in the 2019 lineup.

Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Toby Davis

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