July 26, 2018 / 4:47 PM / 25 days ago

Force India situation is 'critical', says Perez

BUDAPEST (Reuters) - Mexican Formula One driver Sergio Perez described his Force India team’s financial situation as ‘critical’ on Thursday, and recognised that his own future remained uncertain.

FILE PHOTO: Motor Racing - F1 Formula One - Formula One Test Session - Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, Montmelo, Spain - March 9, 2018. Esteban Ocon of Force India during testing. Picture taken March 9, 2018. REUTERS/Albert Gea/File Photo

The Silverstone-based team are fifth overall in the constructors’ standings but have been struggling with funding issues.

Co-owner and team principal Vijay Mallya is fighting an attempt by India to extradite him from Britain to face charges of fraud as a group of Indian banks seek to recover more than $1 billion of loans granted to his defunct Kingfisher Airlines.

Force India’s chief operating officer Otmar Szafnauer told Reuters in June that the team had suffered a cash squeeze through the European winter months but suggested that was easing.

“At the moment the situation is critical,” Perez told reporters at the Hungarian Grand Prix, his language the starkest yet by a team insider.

“There’s no secret that the financial problems have held the team back quite a bit.

“When you look at the results, because Formula One is just about the results, we are fifth in the constructors’ championship and you cannot imagine the financial issues we’ve had so far. It just shows the potential this team has.”

There has been some speculation in the F1 media that Canadian driver Lance Stroll’s billionaire father could be ready to invest in Force India, or even take control, with his son then moving to the team from Williams.

Perez said he remained in a good position with several options.

“Obviously we all want to be driving in the top two teams, Ferrari or Mercedes, so obviously it’s very unlikely that I’ll have an opportunity there for the next years,” said the former McLaren driver.

“So you have to look at where is the best option for your future, where you can show your talent.

“I’ve been for the last two years the best of the rest (outside the top three teams) in the drivers’ championship. I just want to see what’s possible for next year, which teams have a vacancy, and then decide.”

Perez was seventh in the championship in 2016 and 2017, behind the Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull drivers.

Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Pritha Sarkar

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