As I said yesterday, this team review is in no particular order and today we’re looking back at the performance of Force India.
Force India, 0 wins, 0 poles, 7th in Constructors’ Championship
When you cover F1 you inevitably spend more time on the leading teams, less on the midfield and less still on the ones at the back. When I look back on this season, I realise that I didn’t write all that much about Force India in comparison to other teams on their level, like Williams, with whom the team was locked in a battle for sixth place in the championship.
That in itself is noteworthy. This is the team which trailed at the rear not so long ago as Midland and then Spyker. Although the highs of 2009 – with the pole and fight for the win in Spa – were not repeated, Force India were ahead of Williams until the final race where Williams nicked the position, worth something like €6 million in extra prizemoney.
As with the year before the stability of the Force India package was based on the back end of the car bought in from McLaren and Mercedes. The team was in the position of most of the others of having to copy the season’s two must have tech gizmos, the F Duct and the blown diffuser. They did a nice job on the F Duct, being the first to see the added benefit of blowing the air out through the main plane of the rear wing, rather than the flap. Other teams copied them, including McLaren the inventors of the F Duct, so that was a pretty nice compliment to the engineers!
They didn’t do so well with the blown diffuser, never quite getting it right, or rather never extracting the full benefit of it to the same extent as others. This partially accounted for them being caught by Williams in the second half of the year.
The other reason why they got caught was that both Williams drivers were qualifying in the top ten regularly and scoring points, where the Force India guys weren’t so consistent. Liuzzi is one of those drivers who can often have a mare but then four or five times a year produces something outstanding, as he did in Korea.
Sutil scored more than twice the points of Liuzzi (47 to 21) bringing the car home in the points nine times this season to the six of Liuzzi. For both men the first half of the season was much stronger than the second.
I still haven’t made up my mind about Sutil. He’s obviously very skilled as he shows in the wet – although Korea was an exception this year – and he can be very fast. Will team owner Vijay Mallya keep both drivers next year? It’s a buyers’ market at the moment. The Force India is the most competitive drive still available and both Nico Hulkenberg and Paul di Resta are fighting the incumbents for a seat. Sutil brings money from Medion, which may swing it for him, but if I was Mallya I’d certainly take one of the two challengers.
Force India remains one of the most friendly teams to visit in the paddock. Many of the faces there go back to the Jordan days, like team manager Andy Stevenson and there are some very capable engineers there, led by Dominic Harlow.
But they’ve lost James Key, who joined Sauber mid season and more recently Mark Smith has gone to Lotus, so it’s up to the new guys to keep the momentum in this team in 2011. It’s going to take a little inspiration.
I’m hearing from some engineers from midfield teams that it’s going to be hard to stop the leading teams from opening up more of a gap over the midfield next year.
So whereas Force India, for example, regularly had a car in the top ten fastest race laps, around a second off the fastest, we can expect that gap to grow a little next year.
Against that, Force India is already set up as a benchmark team for the Resource Restriction Agreement, with around 300 staff, so the other teams are coming down in numbers to their level and that won’t be without its problems.
Sutil photo: Darren Heath