Vijay Mallya has brought forward a decision on Force India's 2012 driver lineup, after revealing he will now finalize the matter before the next race in Abu Dhabi.
Mallya had originally intended to wait until the middle of December to decide which of Paul di Resta, Nico Hulkenberg and Adrian Sutil will race for his team next year. However, with Sutil having made it clear this week that he wants a decision sooner – because he needs to find another drive if he is not retained – Mallya has agreed to a change of plan.
When asked at the Indian Grand Prix about the driver situation, Mallya said: "I made it very clear that I would decide by December. However, I have since been requested to decide earlier, and so I will respect that need and take an early decision. That is all I can say. I am not going to be able to share with you [what the decision is]."
Mallya added that he would expect the confirmation of his decision to be made before the next race of the season.
Although it is widely expected that Force India will choose di Resta and Hulkenberg as its drivers for next season, Mallya has insisted that no one is ruled out yet.
"All three drivers are there and all three are very much in contention, three top-class drivers as far as I am concerned. But only two can sit in the car, so that is going to be a difficult one for me. I know that, but I will respect their needs and decide earlier."
Di Resta was believed to have been a shoo-in for the seat for several months now, with Mallya's dilemma being whether to choose Sutil for his experience and the sponsorship he brings to the squad, or Hulkenberg because of his long-term potential. When asked if the criteria for the choice would be money or talent, Mallya said: "We don't need pay drivers. We never have had that need and we certainly don't want to sell a seat in the car. So the sponsorship that comes is not relevant as far as I am concerned.
"We want performance and, as I have said since I announced the deal with the Sahara Group, they have brought in 100 million dollars into the team. Their expectation, as is mine, is that we will judiciously use that money to ensure that the team performance improves. The driver is very much part of the improvement of team performance as well."
Mallya did, however, praise Hulkenberg's talent and reckoned his driving that earned a pole position last year in Brazil was proof of how good he is.
"He has been very good," he said. "The fact that he managed to put the Williams on pole position last year says it all, doesn't it?"