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Has Force India got the downforce to challenge?
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Has Force India got the downforce to challenge?
Posted By: James Allen  |  09 Feb 2010   |  7:41 pm GMT  |  52 comments

Today saw the penultimate launch of the ‘established’ teams in Formula 1. Force India unveiled their VJM03 to the world and tomorrow it will run for the first time in the test at Jerez. Tonio Liuzzi will drive the car for the first two days and then Adrian Sutil will take over for the final two days.

Picture 5
Last year’s car turned out to be one of the revelations of the season on the low downforce tracks in particular. Giancarlo Fisichella stuck his car on pole in Spa and raced to second place, while Adrian Sutil got a front row slot in Monza.

Rather than re-invent the wheel, as Williams have done with their car, the Force India technical team has built an evolution of last year’s car, hopefully with some more downforce so they can challenge everywhere, not just on the low downforce tracks. Sources suggest that the wind tunnel numbers are good, that the car is a good step forward from last year’s and this could be a car worth keeping an eye on.

“We are very happy with the direction, therefore we have opted to evolve the car rather than significantly revise,” said design chief Mark Smith. “The VJM02 was a relatively low drag car that showed well on the low downforce tracks. As was demonstrated throughout 2009, that was a useful attribute but as we go into 2010 we have tried to maintain a high level of aerodynamic efficiency, but we recognise that our championship position will be enhanced by a general level of performance that is suited to all types of circuits. We have, we believe, quite an efficient car overall.’

Thanks to the stability of the technical partnership with McLaren and Mercedes, who together provide the whole back end of the car, Force India took the decision to spend some extra time developing their car before launch and they have high hopes. Whereas a couple of years ago they were the backmarkers, they now have a chance to race for solid midfield points at every race and even make the podium. The withdrawal of Toyota and the BMW side of the Sauber operation should make that goal more achievable.

“I don’t think I am being over-proud when I say 2009 was an exceptional year for us, ” said team owner Dr Vijay Mallya. “The bare statistics say it all: one podium, one pole position, one fastest lap, a further five top 10 starts and 13 points. We’ve learnt from our experiences and we’ve come out a better team: resilient, resourceful and now resurgent. I hope 2010 will see this great progress carrying forward. We’ve got one podium so far but I would hope that, this time next year, I’m talking about more points and more podiums. I’m confident we can get this, why not aim high?”

There have been a lot of rumours about the financial health of the Force India team, with a story in the newspapers over the weekend that the team could be dissolved by Companies House for late annual accounts. The letter, dated 26th January gives the team just three months notice that it will be wound up “unless cause is shown to the contrary”.

Mallya responded by saying that the matter would be sorted out and the accounts filed. It nevertheless raises some awkward questions the team would prefer not to be dealing with as they go into a new season, with perhaps the best chance of achieving something since the early 2000s when they were called Jordan-Honda.

Red Bull launches it’s hotly awaited car tomorrow in Jerez.

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52 Comments
  1. Boston F1 Fan says:

    - Due to an absence of KERS and Kimi Raikkonen, maybe they’ll get a victory this year!

    1. anti feminista. says:

      but they have liuzzi on fisico’s car. He would get distracted looking himself in the mirror, and the car behind will overtake.
      It is a hopeless situation. They need to find better drivers. Sutil is the sbsolute minimun.

  2. Paul Douglas says:

    I think, even if they do get the accounts filed in time for the new deadline, there are questions they need to answer for. Like why they’re the only time who’s filing them late – and have been for three straight years.

  3. eddyr says:

    I don’t think it’s tax returns that are the issue, it’s their annual accounts that all Ltd companies must file within 10mths of their year end, which was October. Companies House are a bit swifter to act on overdue accounts now than they have for many years.
    I hope they do well, but for various reasons- I just don’t like Vijay Mallya.

    1. Williams4ever says:

      Agree on all your points.
      Apparently the press/fans are reading too much into late tax returns filing of the team, but I am very well aware that lots of Businesses are always in the similar situation.

      I want the team to do better on back of their successes in 2009.

      And again you are so correct on Vijay Mallya “The Person”,I am sure the kind of results Sutil-Fisi-Luizzi gave him in last two years, Indian drivers would have given the same on the cars that were produced by the team. In return he would have got diversity of Indian sponsors backing FIF1, which currently is pretty much limited to Companies with Mallya’s personal stakes. But for one Median which is Sutil’s personal sponsor..

      I suspect , his not selecting NK & or Chandok is pretty much connected to the fact that their families were part of earlier factions that were in charge of Motorsports authority of India. Mallya has managed to get his faction endorsed thanks to hobnobbing with Max( I suspect as favor in spank scandal voting)

  4. onyx says:

    Sorry to go off beam but i cant stop laughing at the pic of the new Lotus!It looks like an old F3000 car from the early 90′s or a Coloni!Why is it so far off the ground?!Trulli and Kovalainen must wonder what they have signed up for.These new teams are definitely going to be at the back of the grid by a long way!!Will any of them make it to Bahrain??!!

    1. Philip W says:

      I agree it does look abit crap. I think the nose of it looks very short compared to other 2010cars.

      I hope the ‘newcomers’ aren’t a massive flop though as I think it could open up a new era of F1.

      All you have to do is look around at the hype for this year. Didn’t 30,000 fans turn up each day for the first test?!

      1. M__E says:

        For Alonso..in a Ferrari…in Spain.

    2. Jeffrey says:

      Can’t expect miracles from these new teams though, without technical data from previous years to go by. So yes they will be at the back, but might be able to surprise once or twice. Unless one of them finds a gap in regulations no one else found, but this is very unlikely. Most new teams will be looking for a rather conservative, stable car, and develop it over the year. With testing time as limited as it is now, there is hardly another way to do this. I hope they won’t be tooooo slow, and that they are financially sound so they will actually make not just Bahrain, but also Abu Dhabi.

      On the new Lotus: I think it is very hard to judge from just one picture, it looks a bit stubby and short, but I’d like to see some more before I’ll judge them. I’m very curious how their pace will be (and Virgin’s pace as well, this week) All in all, it looks like an interesting season (though I’m very doubtful CamposMeta1 and USF1 will ever see the light of day, but nevertheless…)

      1. Philip W says:

        I’ll take back my comments on the lotus… it looks a lot better in the launch pictures. It looks better designed than the virgin car but then again I’m not trained aerodynamics.

  5. Stephen Kellett says:

    I’ve put late returns in twice. Once was a mistake by the accountant and the second was caused by the accountant’s death due to illness. I got a fine for the first and no penalty for the latter.

    Force India must be doing something pretty badly worse than just mere late returns to be threatend with winding up.

    Given the money VM has I can only assume its incompetence that has resulted in the returns being late. Its not as if he can’t pay the accountancy bills.

    1. Force India have managed a combined tally of 32 months-and-counting late for the last three years. Companies House probably decided this message would provide sufficient motivation for Force India to get its paperwork in order in a halfway reasonable timeframe.

  6. Peter says:

    Did anyone else hear about the rumours that Force India were in danger of going out of business?

  7. Peter says:

    Sorry – pressed submit too quickly then.

    It seems strange that they’d be in financial danger seeing that they’d have got revenue?

  8. rpaco says:

    “It nevertheless raises some awkward questions the team would prefer not to be dealing with as they go into a new season” Not least of which being why weren’t the accounts filed on time in the first place?

    Hope the money is sorted out, since Force India were a bit of a revelation last year, who knows, if Fisi had stayed on, they could have been even more successful.

  9. Midnight Toper says:

    Given the team has been through a lot of upheaval in recent years, I understood that retaining both drivers would help lead to some stability, however I was quite surprised that they kept Liuzzi and wonder if that decision was a little pre-mature in hindsight given the testing restrictions and current driver availability.

    I think Sutil has a lot of potential and has had his share of bad luck to mar some great drives, but I would have preferred to see Heidfeld, Villeneuve or even Ralf Schumacher (I still don’t understand why Ralf received the chop ahead of Trulli) in the other seat.

    Am I being hard on Tonio here? I understand his form prior to F1 was strong but since arriving in F1 he’s failed to cut the mustard. I’ll give him to Turkey and if he’s failed to impress, we’ll see Di Resta in the 2nd seat given his potential and his McMerc connections.

    1. HowardHughes says:

      I agree about Liuzzi. Jow Saward eulogises him like he’s on a share of earnings, but to my mind he’s been nowt but mediocre since he ever got behind the wheel of an F1 car. If he was even 50% as great as some pundits keep alleging he is then he’d have properly shone by now, somewhere, somehow…

      1. anti feminista. says:

        agree

    2. Red Andy says:

      Liuzzi is an excellent driver who was never given a proper chance at Toro Rosso (just like every other STR driver who wasn’t called Sebastian Vettel). He deserved a second shot and the last few races of 2009 showed that he still has promise. Sutil on the other hand has shown the potential to be quick but still makes too many mistakes. I fully expect Tonio to establish himself as the better driver at Force India this year.

      Incidentally, FI didn’t have much choice but to keep Liuzzi as his third driver contract with the team included the promise of a race seat for 2010.

      1. anti feminista. says:

        i don’t agree. They gave vettel a chance because they saw potential. If they had seen the same potential on speed for instance,it would have been even better. Us market more important for them. But speed, the same as liuzzi just don’t have the same quality.

  10. Paige says:

    An “evolution” of last year’s car? That may not be good enough, given the effects of the changes in technical regulations. While the aerodynamic changes aren’t as severe as those from 2008-2009, the changes in the balance of mechanical grip and weight distribution will interact with the aerodynamics of the car in changing its behavior.

    With that said, I come away from the first glance at the car with the impression it should again be a good low-drag car and perform very well at Spa and Monza. Also look out for it at Montreal, where its long Droit du Casino straight could make the car really come alive.

    1. Stephen Kellett says:

      You know, all you guys and gals that can see the aero efficiency of a car – you’re all geniuses – why aren’t you working for these racing teams – they could really use your incredible aero seeing eyes!

      You can’t tell anything by looking at a car.
      Example:

      VW Campervan – you know the thing that looks like a brick on wheels. The iconic transport of the hippy movement. You may have seen Jenson being interviewed by Louise Goodman a few years back with his VW Campervan.

      That unspeedy-looking VW Campervan has the same drag coefficient as a Jaguar. “Huh?” You say. Well its a got a blunt nose which isn’t efficient, but the rest of the body is just flat panels and create practically no drag, which result in it having the same drag coefficient as the Jaguar.

      Still think you can see good aero by looking?

  11. Carl says:

    I love the look of this car. To me it is the best looking car so far and appears more detailed than the McLaren.

    Obviously its difficult to see in that pic, but there is a video clip on he BBC site (hope you don’t mind James) and interview with Sutil and Liuzzi

  12. R.B. says:

    I can’t, but wonder how Fisi feels now. He left a podium scorer for a red car that barely drove midfield.

    Even worse, now he is without a team. He could have easily stayed with Force India this year if he did not get the first chance to jump on the broken train last year.

    Terrible decision making for him.

    1. Paige says:

      Yes, but driving for Ferrari was always his dream. He didn’t have many years left, and he got the opportunity to fulfill a dream.

    2. Dan says:

      Fisi said he had no regrets in jumping into the Ferrari, and as long as he’s happy who cares… same for Luca Badoer, he’s got to drive and develop all Schumi’s world title cars, and despite the lack of plaudits, he knows the merit of it himself…

      If he’s happy at Ferrari, surely the worse decision would’ve been NOT to take up the offer…

    3. John F says:

      There was no guarantee that FI would have kept Fisi for this season, so he may have been out of race seat anyway. Now at least he’s on Ferrari’s pay-roll.

      Could be worse for an ex F1 driver …

  13. Steve McGill says:

    Good luck to these guys – this is the cutest car on the grid, Finding Nemo style! I really don’t think they need to worry about the financials, surely F1 is like a activities holiday for Vijay?!

  14. Max says:

    Come on Adrian, deliver the goods.

  15. Max says:

    I do however think they will be a massive failure. Everyone else has changed their cars alot. Why Force India have not when the last car was hardly that good is beyond me?

  16. manatcna says:

    There’s more going on here than we fans are being told.

    I have a suspicion that Mr Mallya won’t be in Formula One long term – but – I’ve been wrong before

    1. anti feminista. says:

      he is a petrol head, but a business man as well. We’ll see wich one of those men is the strongest.

  17. Martin P says:

    James, where do Force India sit in terms of budget compared to the other teams?

    I’m trying to understand if they’ve found this performance predominantly by;

    a) Ploughing more cash in than ever before

    b) The Mercedes engine

    c) Hitting the sweet spot in the 2009 rule changes

    d) All of the above

    But if it is all of the above… how did they do it? Who’s the mastermind behind it all – VJ or someone unknow in the technical team we need to keep an eye on as a Ross Brawn of the future?

    1. James Allen says:

      The Merc/McLaren tie up for engine and gearbox is pretty important. It’s always been a good technical team; Mark Smith, James Kay, Dominic Harlow, talented guys.

  18. Brace says:

    A bit unrelated, but if Campos is to buy a car from Dallara, doesn’t that make then a customer team? The kind which is banned for this year.

    1. James Allen says:

      No, it’s all to do with the IP not belonging to another team

    2. anti feminista. says:

      that is the least of their concerns right now.

  19. Stu says:

    Force India were my nice surprise of the year last year, I hope they can continue it through to this. Something likeable about the team.

  20. vor says:

    some people here seem to have forgotten Vijay Mallya is a BILLIONAIRE.

    those few dozen millions he can pay cash during lunch break if he wants. but like most good business men, he stalls it until the last moment.

    1. Stephen Kellett says:

      I’ve found that the people that you want to do business with don’t stall until the last minute. Thats a sure sign of someone you can’t trust. If you can’t trust someone, you can’t do business with them.

  21. Dirty Scarab says:

    I agree with Stu above, Force India are one of those outfits – similar to Jordan that have that air of the underdog about them, yet I think aren’t that far from achieving great things. I for one will be keeping an eye on them this season.

    Fingers crossed for them and also Campos + USF1

    On a side note, after Todt’s comments that all teams are now allowed to miss the first three races without punishment, one has to feel that the rule wouldn’t have been made public knowledge unless it will be needed this year.

    Hope that isn’t the case…

  22. Williams4ever says:

    For all those who have expressed concerns over Financial situation of FIF1. Filing returns and Financial conditions are not connected. Most corporates are always behind on filing their returns and its not uncommon of missed deadlines.

    Having said that, one must keep in mind that all the sponsors on that car are companies that Vijay Mallya has direct or indirect stakes in. So the team’s fate is indirectly tied with Mallya’s personal financial status.

    Point to note that not many “Indian Corporates” have bought the “Force India” dream. If only Vijay Mallya, lets go his ego and personal differences with Indian Drivers NK/Chandok, there are so many sponsors that would gladly back the FIF1 team.

    If my information is right, NK still has backing of State Funded Petroleum Refinery, MRF Tyre (that renewed his contract recently) and few more “Auto” related products from Indian Markets still back NK. Same is case with Karun Chandok, the Indian driver who had mixed bag in GP2.

    If only Mr. Mallya shows some pragmatism. I am sure on the car that the team produced the Indian driver duo would have fared equal to what Adrian Sutil-Fisichella delivered last two seasons..

    But EGO is the biggest qualification of people involved in F1 at all levels, so VJM is just norm not exception…

    1. anti feminista. says:

      he doesn’t have the resources of toyota, and look what happened. He needs to see that the business makes sense. He can just put loads of money on it. And get minimun results. There must be someone he has to show that it is a good investment.

  23. CTP says:

    if i were running a small team, i think i would try to emulate the strategy (whether intended or not, in this case) of force india in 2009. that is, build a car that was going to work well on one kind of circuit. better to score a couple of third places then ten ninth or tenth places though attrition.

  24. Buck says:

    You gotta love all the armchair aerodynamisists out there. From one or two pictures of a new car on the internet they think they can determine whether a car is fast or not. This surely is evidence that the aerodynamists actually employed by F1 teams are overpaid, incompetent fools, given that they get to see their competitor’s cars UP CLOSE and from every angle, and still have trouble figuring out what makes the fastest car.

  25. Pawel says:

    Like Renault their car seems not changed much from the outside perspective. I wonder whether they and Renault will keep a pace of the teams with Red-Bull design copy.

  26. zawillow says:

    James

    Sorry it’s a bit off topic, but I’ve read an article that the secret to Ferrari’s new car is that the engine is mounted at an angle (leaning forward), allowing more space for a bigger diffuser. Albert Costa has been quoted as saying: “The new Ferrari has a very interesting mechanical solution; most of the secrets are hidden under the bodywork”.

    Do you have any feedback in this regard – it could be one of the bigger “new design idea’s” of the season. Could this also be related to the supposed B-Spec Ferrari car.

    I suppose we’ll get a better idea during the week of the real speed of the Ferrari.

    Thanks for a great site, I enjoy the articles just as much as the feedback from the fans.

    1. James Allen says:

      Not heard that but I will investigate, thanks.

  27. tufty says:

    I,ve become a massive Force India fan after last seasons performances, and I was thinking can they really challenge for a top 5 finish in the constructers championship, If Sutil can cut out some mistakes he could be hot.

  28. David says:

    Why are the teams only running one car if testing is limited to such a few occasions? Is this a regulation?

    Obviously the cars are brand new and they may only have ONE finished, but having both drivers running around would be more productive?

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