Will Gray

Team by team previews: Force India

Will Gray

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After finishing four points short of fifth last year, Force India have a tough target to beat this season — and even some of the team's top bosses admit it will need to dig deep to step up.

This is the fifth year the team that began life as Jordan Grand Prix has run as Force India and after a tough time in the early days they have been improving steadily in the last three seasons.

In 2009, the team had a car that was very strong on fast tracks, allowing them to take pole position and finish second at Spa. In 2010, they found consistency in the slower tracks too, and finished seventh in the championship, just one point behind Williams.

Last season they made several appearances in the top-10 qualifying shoot-out and were the most consistent points scorers in the midfield, building up their tally with regular finishes in the mid- and lower- points range rather through occasional higher scoring finishes.

The team threatened Renault (now Lotus) but fell just short — and while a strong driver line-up and tidy looking car suggest they have a chance to match or better that this year, the big question mark is whether they will have the development pace to hang on to the tails of the teams ahead.


There is a Premier League gap between the teams in the midfield and those at the sharp end, with Red Bull, McLaren, Ferrari and Mercedes all working with significant budgets and large staff numbers. That leaves fifth place as the benchmark for 'best of the rest'.

Current fifth-placed team Lotus are now running on a far smaller budget than it had when it was a full works Renault team and having to tighten the purse strings more than their name, status and heritage suggests.

This is, then, perhaps the best opportunity for Force India to benefit from putting some serious additional funding behind the team — and a decision on whether to do so could well be based on early indications of whether the car provides a strong enough baseline.

It won't take long to tell whether that will be the case or not — but if it does have potential, then investment will be crucial.


If the car is good, the team certainly has the drivers to push it to its limits.

From the trio in their arsenal last year, they opted to drop German Adrian Sutil in favour of test driver Nico Hulkenburg, who will now race alongside Paul di Resta.

Di Resta's move last year from DTM revealed a hidden talent surprising to many, including Sutil, and although the German ended the year as the team's top scorer he lost his status as the star driver and fell out of favour as he pressed his bosses for a decision on their 2012 line-up.

Last year's pairing appeared to get the best out of each other but Hulkenburg, who had a strong debut season with Williams before his enforced year on the sidelines, will be a more than adequate replacement and it will be interesting to see how the pair gel.


The team has admitted their philosophy is to have the best drivers that they can afford — theory being that good drivers can provide better quality feedback for the engineers to improve the car - but it is the team management area that, perhaps, holds their secret weapon.

Team principal Vijay Mallya is the public face of Force India, but sitting behind him is Bob Fernley, who effectively plays the active day-to-day role of a team principal and has done a superb job in building the team to where it is now.

The loss of some important technical staff in James Key and Mark Smith could have hit the team hard, but without them last year they had their most successful season to date, working efficiently to get the most out of their resources.

With a Mercedes engine and McLaren's gearbox and KERS taking a load off the engineering demands for the team, the main design resource has been placed on aerodynamics — which is generally where you can gain the most from any budget put towards developments during the season.

The team did admit they designed themselves into a corner with the 2011 car, restricting the amount of development they could do throughout the year. But they believe they have addressed all those areas for 2012, giving them a greater opportunity for continuous improvement — which they will need to have if they are to step up to the next level.

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