Will Gray

Technical Talk: Team extensions

Will Gray

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The team that originated as Jordan, before being sold to Midland, then Spyker, then finally Force India at the end of 2007, agreed to get into bed with front-running giant McLaren in a five-year deal starting this season and now appears to be functioning as a 'mini-me' version of its elder and more experienced brother.

But how close is the relationship, and how good will it be?

In recent years, several real 'junior teams' have evolved, with Red Bull officially owning two outfits — Red Bull Racing and Toro Rosso - and car giant Honda giving Super Aguri a financial leg-up to get started in 2006, not to mention their old car to run in 2007 and, until the Aguri outfit's financial collapse, 2008.

Red Bull undoubtedly gain from the inevitable information feed between teams, despite distinctive differences including, notably, different engines (Red Bull with Renault and Toro Rosso with Ferrari). Super Aguri, meanwhile, certainly benefited from running a ready-made Honda machine, engine and all, a year after they were established.
In both cases the junior teams regularly out-performed their parent outfits, with Honda's 2007 disaster car allowing Super Aguri to embarrass them on several occasions, and Toro Rosso, not lead outfit Red Bull Racing, becoming the first from the Red Bull stable to grace the top step of the podium after winning in Italy last year.

On the face of it, Force India's tie-up with McLaren-Mercedes seems to be a simple supplier deal bringing, much in the same way as Williams has with Toyota, a certain amount of collaboration.

But it is clear there is more to it than that.

Why? Because not only does the new technical partnership bring Mercedes engines along with McLaren gearboxes, hydraulics and KERS, it has also seen an experienced man from McLaren, the world championship winning team's former director of racing operations Simon Roberts, inserted at the heart of Force India, bringing with him full support of the McLaren Group and all its business benefits.

Not that Force India was doing much wrong before. The outfit was steadily progressing up the grid in the hands of Mike Gascoyne, but boss Vijay Mallya (pictured), who disposed of the multi-millionaire designer in November 2008 - the same month that Roberts arrived as chief operations officer - admits he has already seen a step change in the way things are run.

Roberts, it seems, is now calling the shots and running the operation, seconded from Woking to show the smaller outfit how an F1 team should be run. His processes and management techniques have been lauded by his new boss and it could be this insertion of McLaren management, more than the technical partnership itself, that will be key to a Force India acceleration.

Mallya does not want to "merely make up the numbers" he wants the team to be regular points scorers. It has been there in the past, but only as Jordan and only when there was more scope for the independent. But things are changing in Formula One, with costs coming down and the playing field, supposedly, being levelled.

So while there is tough competition out there, a bed with McLaren could well prove to be a very comfortable place to lie.



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