2011 Season Preview – Force India


Team Name : Force India F1 Team

Location : Silverstone, UK

Team Principal : Vijay Mallya

Technical Director : Andrew Green

Drivers : Adrian Sutil, Paul di Resta

Chassis : VJM04

Engine : Mercedes-Benz

First Season : 2008

Races Entered : 54

Pole Positions : 1

Race wins : 0

Points scored in 2010 : 68

World Championships : 0

The perennial backmarkers of 2008 have scripted a remarkable turnaround in performance in the last three years. By the time a struggling Jordan became Midland F1 and then Spyker in consecutive seasons, the Silverstone-based squad was hopelessly off the pace of other teams in the lower midfield. Taken over by Indian liquor baron Vijay Mallya at the end of 2007, the team have rapidly closed the massive performance deficit that Spyker left them with.

Although they did not score any points in their 2008 season – the first under the name of Force India, the way they relentlessly chipped away at the 2 second gap to the next team was deeply impressive. Their lead driver Adrian Sutil seemed to be jinxed by Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen whenever he was in a points scoring position – the retirement from 4th place at Monaco was gut-wrenching. In 2009, it could’ve gone in any direction – the raft of new regulations had the established teams on the ropes and Force India could’ve easily followed BMW to oblivion – but they didn’t. Vijay Mallya took on the role of Team Principal, and set about building a team for the future.

First up, he secured Mercedes-Benz engines for his car – and followed it up with a 5 year technical partnership with Mclaren for gearboxes, hydraulic systems and KERS. That year’s VJM02 was a quick car on circuits requiring low downforce – Spa and Monza especially. Giancarlo Fisichella caused the upset of the season when he put in a sublime Q3 lap to claim Force India’s first ever pole position – and the fact it was achieved purely by the raw pace of the car made it even more amazing. That race was won by Kimi in his Ferrari thanks to his KERS system, but he had to drive out of his skin to do so because Fisi was stuck to his diffuser every inch of the way. Those 8 points were the first ever for the team and it sent a clear warning to the rest of the field – that they were truly a force to be reckoned with.

The 2010 season was by far the most productive, as Force India became a proper midfield contender alongside Williams. The team enjoyed a great start to the season and came within a point of beating Williams to 6th place. In fact the pace of the car dropped off noticeably over the latter half of the season and I suspect it was mainly due to the departure of Technical Director James Key to rivals Sauber. But Mallya is an astute leader – you can expect him to rebuild the technical team quickly. The Indian outfit has set an ambitious target of sixth place this year – and it’s a measure of the team’s confidence that they’re able to do so. Vijay Mallya may have done a wonderful job of reviving the team – but there’s a long way to go yet.

For 2011, Scotsman Paul di Resta joins Adrian Sutil and the early signs are very promising. Don’t forget, he actually beat current champion Sebastian Vettel to the F3 Euroseries crown in 2006. Force India should have no problems with reliability – Mercedes has been outstanding in that regard over the last four years. Therefore it is a matter of starting off with a well-sorted car, making it to Q1 regularly, finishing races consistently and relentlessly developing the car. It will be no cakewalk – this years’ Williams FW33 looks strong – the onus is on the drivers and the development team to beat the British squad. They’ll get to the top one day. It wont be tomorrow, but surely sometime in the near future.

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