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Neel Jani in touch with Mallya, eyeing Force India seat
« on: April 15, 2008, 04:22:51 PM »

Neel Jani in touch with Mallya, eyeing Force India seat
11 Apr, 2008 02:58 pm IST,PTI

SHANGHAI, April 11: Team Switzerland's Neel Jani is eyeing a seat with the Force India Formula One team and the A1 Grand Prix driver is confident that his Indian roots would help his cause.

The Swiss driver, who is currently leading the pack of drivers in the A1 Grand Prix, is particularly buoyed after his meeting with Force India owner Vijay Mallya, which he described as positive.

"I talked to Vijay Mallya in Barcelona. Mallya's reaction was positive and we had a very good talk," Jani said.

"It is always good when they know you, obviously with Indian roots it helps. Drivers have a lot of talent, but things likes roots can help," he added.

While Formula One remains his goal, Jani insisted his priority now was to win the A1 GP Championship.

"A1 is my first priority now and I will try to win the championship before thinking about other things," he said.

Jani, however, does not have any illusion about whether A1 GP can match F1.

"I do not think in near future (A1 can catch up). F1 has been there for 50-60 years. A1 is in its third year. It is a good concept, it's over the winter and has the potential, but it will take ages if it catches up with F1. I don't think you can compare the two concepts because they are very different."

Talking about the Indian A1 GP team, which has Narain Karthikeyan as the driver, Jani thinks they need to focus on their basics in order to excel in the championship.

"They had a little up and down season. On some tracks they worked very well and on some, a little less. I don't know what the background is from outside, it looks like they have a lot of problems with the car and they do not have a basic set-up. They need to make the fundamentals really solid before they can build the house on it," he said.

Though he drives in Swiss colours, Jani is proud of his Gujarati connection.

"My father is settled in Switzerland for many years. He met my mother (a Swiss) in England. But I never asked them about it. Children do not ask parents such things," he quipped.

"I know some Gujarati as well, like 'taru nam suche'," he said.

Jani is no alien to Hindi movies either. "I know all the famous Bollywood stars like Shah Rukh Khan and Aishwarya Rai. My dad watches Hindi movies and when we were children we too watched a lot. I didn't understand Hindi, so it had to be translated. But today with DVDs with sub-titles, it's a bit easier," he said with a smile.

The driver adores famous compatriot Roger Federer and said the tennis ace was an inspiration for any sportsperson who wants to excel in his or her field.

"Who does not like him? He is the biggest sports star Switzerland ever had. He is an example how a sportsman can be successful. He is a kind of idol," the affable 24-year-old added.

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