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Personal review of the F1 year – Force India
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Personal review of the F1 year – Force India
Posted By: James Allen  |  28 Dec 2010   |  9:58 am GMT  |  41 comments

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

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41 Comments
  1. Ali Unal says:

    I believe Force India’s camera mounting on the nose was also copied by some other teams. It was another engineering pioneering by the team, which is an encouragement for 2011 season.

  2. tomek says:

    just to make sure James – when you write about Mark Smith going to “Lotus”, do you mean “Lotus Renault” or “Team Lotus”?

    1. Trone says:

      There’s Lotus and there’s Renault. Simple as that.

      1. tomek says:

        yes, I know. But still, in comments to one of the previous articles JA referred to Lotus Renault as to “Lotus”. That’s why I asked this question

      2. James Allen says:

        I’ve never referred to the Renault team as Lotus. Maybe it will become Lotus in time, who knows? But it isn’t Lotus at the moment

      3. DannyBahar says:

        Nop. There is (would be) Lotus Renault with Renault’s chassis and Team Lotus with “Team Lotus” chassis.
        Noone can call himself Lotus or his cars Lotuses expect Lotus, the Lotuses producer from Hethel.
        Wanna bet?

      4. midnight-toper says:

        And I thought Danny Bahar had good presentation skills

      5. DannyBahar says:

        no, his bigest adventage is good spelling ;)

  3. Mohammed Al-Momen says:

    I really hope Nico gets a drive talent like that shouldn’t just disappear. Its very unfair to him to get one season (with No testing). Luzzi has got to many chances I think, time to give somebody else a chance me thinks.

  4. Bart says:

    Weren’t the Renault guys the first to introduce the F-Duct blowing the main plane? I’m pretty sure they were.

    1. sachindgr8 says:

      nope …. force india did it first .. i am pretty sure too :P

      1. Cyclops_PL says:

        Yup, Renaults F-duct was one of the last ones introduced, though it was one of the best, if not THE best.

  5. Dave Aston says:

    I was surprised they faltered a bit this year, but I guess we were spoiled with their work in 2009. One thing I considered, Mallya’s work in getting the team up the grid reminds me a bit of Briatore; someone who has applied their management acumen to the sport despite no real experience in racing at a high level. I know Mallya has always been an enthusiast, whereas Briatore was a novice before going to Bennetton’s race team, but it did make me think that basic principles developed in any field can be applied to motor racing and prove to be effective. I hope they take Di Resta for this year with Sutil, he seems to have some ability.

  6. Irish con says:

    James during a period of Xmas boredom I was on wikipedia and put in f1 2011. It says among the changes for next year is that the exhaust blown diffuser and the shark fin engine cover and the merc engine cover are all banned. Is this true. Also the maximum height of the diffuser has been cut by 50 mm. I thought the exhaust blown diffuser was legal for next year. Help me out if you can.

    1. Carlos E. Del Valle says:

      No, exhaust-blown-diffusers are not banned. If you check Craig Scarborough’s reference cited in Wikipedia, it says:

      “this opening allowed teams to open up the front of the diffuser to blow the exhaust through for an even greater blown diffuser effect. This rule also prevents this opening in all but the outer 50mm of the split between the diffuser and the floor.”

      Which means, the diffuser can only be blown in its outer area for 2011.

    2. Henry says:

      Their is no ban on the exhaust blown diffuser, but there is a ban on any slots in the diffuser. So whereas this year, Red bull, Ferrari, and towards the end McLaren were passing some of the exhaust gasses through slots into the underside of the diffuser, next year this will be banned. But blowing the gasses over the top of the diffuser will not be banned.

      Mercedes roll structure; the changes prevent the top of the roll structure from being too narrow at the top, thus negating any benefits from this arrangement; they did this because of fears that the structure could dig into soft surfaces such as grass/mud and cause further flipping of the car, etc.

      “15.2.4 The principal roll structure must have a minimum enclosed structural cross section of 10000mm², in vertical projection, across a horizontal plane 50mm below its highest point. The area thus established must not exceed 200mm in length or width and may not be less than 10000mm2 below this point.”

      shark fin engine cover is not banned, but having it connected to the rear wing is banned, simply to try and prevent anybody implementing any kind of f-duct.

      Hope that clarifies it slightly.

  7. stuart fenton says:

    Sutil has had moments of genius this year. Fast and a keen overtaker, and thanks to the car being better he made less mistakes due to not having to push as hard. Just goes to show how hard he was pushing/how bad car was last year!

  8. NamedMyKidAyrton says:

    I agree Liuzzi does not seem a very compellign option. But it’s not an easy choice between Hulkenberg and Di Resta! What’s more valuable, the experience of one full year of racing or the loyalty/credibility of your driver development program? One more German driver with limited sponsorship or a stronger link to the UK market? Can Force India attempt to do both? Would Hulkenberg accept a test driver role for one year – in which you put additionally put some healthy competitive pressure on Sutil?

    The point about the Resource Restriction Agreement is a very interesting one also. I remain doubtful that the agreement will be enforced strictly. Not when the big guys getting all the wins, the air time, the star drivers and the sponsorship money are also the ones breaking the cost ceiilng.

    I think Mercedes (and perhaps the engine supply to Force India comes in handy) will play a key role. If they win races in 2011 on a relative shoestring budget, the pressure will be on for others to comply. Otherwise, the motivation to limit spending will dwindle. Even more so if the current trends continue and the emerging market economies keep growing at a much faster pace than the Western World and they continue gaining prominence in the calendar.

    What’s your take?

    1. Henry says:

      Remember Paul Di Resta has raced for Mercedes in DTM this year, and actually won the title for them – so he clearly has huge talent, experience, and of course has a very strong link to that vital component in Force India’s set-up: the Mercedes power-train!

      1. NamedMyKidAyrton says:

        True. I am not doubting Di Resta’s talent; but I do wonder whether the ban on testing puts him at a disadvantage in comparison to someone like Hulkenberg – who is also very talented plus already has one full season of racing under his belt.

  9. M Harries says:

    I’d imagine Mercedes may have some say (through a reduction to engine cost) in Force India’s 2011 drivers.

    Is Sutil really safe considering he’s made it clear he wants to move to a bigger team as soon as a seat becomes available.

    1. Dave Roberts says:

      I can’t see a bigger team wanting him. I think he flatters to deceive. For every glimpse of talent he provides plenty of evidence of incompetance which is a shame because he comes across as a nice guy.

  10. Toti says:

    Liuzzi is definately not a star and should be replaced ASAP. Hulkenberg for me was quite invisible, and the pole in Brazil to me asks where was the talent for the rest of the year. But I do not think Di Resta will do any better. At least the Hulk has a year behind him and did seem to be improving quietly. Please do not give that Karun another shot he is dismall as his record in past series shows. I would vote for Hulkenberg and Hiedfeld at least he is solid most of the time and good with engineers due his experience. He should really be in Schumi’s seat @ MB.

    1. Alan Dove says:

      When looking at Hulkenberg’s year have to take into account the pressure he was racing under. He was up against very experienced team-mate while learning the ropes.

      Also consider that the Hulk knew he was getting dropped because he didn’t have the financial backing that other drivers can bring. That’s immense pressure to deal with.

      In terms of Force India, Liuzzi and Sutil are pretty good value. As far as I am aware they don’t cost the team actual money. I think if they were to go for a new driver I wouldn’t be surprised to see another pay-driver in there.

      I think I am right in saying all the new drivers this year are bring vast wedges of cash with them, so it doesn’t look brilliant for PDR and NH.

      but I guess FI could surprise everyone :)

      1. NamedMyKidAyrton says:

        Yup, agreed that the money they bring along will have an enormous influence also.

        It’d be great to have a more accurate read on the financial trade-offs teams are getting into when they choose a less proven or productive driver who brings along sponsorship money. Considering the year-end rewards tied to the constructors’ table, those packages better be worth the risk!

      2. Alan Dove says:

        I think the way motorsport works nowadays has meant pay-drivers are not the unknown quantity they once were. The cost of racing is so high that, if you have the wealth, can out-practise and out-pace rivals.

        What you know you’re getting with someone who’s bring money is security that they have gained enough experience, because they could afford too. High competence levels will always shine above pure talent.

        Certainly if you watch F1 because you think it’s the best drivers on the planet you are sadly mistaken. It’s just not.

    2. JF says:

      Hulk got the pole because he did his run with a wet setup on a wet track. All the front runners did their run with a dry setup since they had to use the same setup for the dry race the next.

      This is why Hulk was 1sec faster than anyone else.. and why at the end of the first lap he was 8 or 9 I think.

      1. Martin says:

        My understanding is that it wasn’t a wet set up (he was third at the end of lap one), but that Nico was able to keep the required heat in the tyres and didn’t make any errors to go off line and consequently cool them. The other drivers either made mistakes or were held up on the out lap (I recall a comment about Hamilton cruising and affecting another driver, possibly Rubens).

        The track was behaving like a low-grip dry circuit at that stage, so there would be no benefit in modifying the suspension away from a dry set up, particularly as the Sunday forecast was for a dry race. The speed trap showed that the downforce level was normal (all the best speeds were in the last minute of Q3). Therefore I believe that your suggestion that Williams traded Sunday race performance for Saturday glory is wrong.

  11. Rich C says:

    Yeah, Liuzzi has been around for a while but never really showed *me anything special. Probably time for him to move on and give some younger guys a shot.

    James, just exactly how much of their cars can teams outsource? It seems to me the ‘secret’ for these back-of-the-grid teams is finding the next season’s ‘right’ engine/trans/back end package and focusing all their brainpower on aero.

    ANd is there a publicly available copy of this resource restriction agreement? I just cannot believe there’s a level playing field yet. Given the propensity of the ‘important’ teams to spend money like water I suspect there’s a lot of “Hollywood accounting” happening.

  12. Nando says:

    Why are they losing enginneers? The teams they’re going to don’t seem to have big budgets. Never knew why Mike Gasgoine left.

    1. Martin Collyer says:

      Didn’t Dr. Mallya decide he didn’t need Mike Gascoigne?

      I’m sure I read somewhere that there is/was a court case between Gascoigne and Mallya over unfair dismissal or breach of contract or something of that nature.

      Didn’t he, Mallya, get rid of Colin Kolles at the same time?

  13. d-d says:

    on several occasions Liuzii was unlucky to be a victim of accidents like the one of Massa in Suzuka. He is better than his point tally. I’m not sure that he needs to be replaced. Perhaps not yet.

  14. Nuno says:

    Loosing Mark Smith was bad, loosing James Key was very very bad.

    Their drivers are both weak…, that’s easy to upgrade…, but it won’t be enough.

    At this moment I have the feeling that Force India near future will be down and down.

    1. Martin Collyer says:

      “Loosing Mark Smith was bad, loosing James Key was very very bad.”

      Yes, and their downturn in form seemed to coincide with the departure of Key, in particular and a couple of other engineers/aerodynamicists to Lotus.

      A coincidence or the cause?

  15. monktonnik says:

    Thinking from a slightly different point of view I have to ask why key people are leaving.

    Mike Gascoigne went with criticism (anecdotally) of his management style being the stated reason. I am certainly rethinking that opinion.

    I fear that Force India have had their shot at glory and unless they get in some serious big hitters I think it is unlikely that they will stop themselves from slipping back.

  16. David says:

    I very much hope that Di Resta gets his long-awaited opportunity in F1 next year.

    James, could you tell us a little more about the arrangement between Force India and McLaren – a couple of years back it seemed as though this relationship was likely to become very close with senior personnel and parts moving from the larger to the smaller team. Is this still happening and, if so, could this relationship play a part in deciding whether Di Resta gets a drive?

    1. Martin says:

      And adding to that query, could McLaren be a source of KERS for Force India? It would be good to see variety in supply for this technology. Otherwise it may be modified Magneti Marelli systems for most of the field.

      1. James Allen says:

        I imagine that they will use the Merc system which is very good apparently and extremely light

  17. jonrob says:

    They should never have let Fisi go, or at least got him straight back again. He got 20% more out of the car than anyone else. (yes I know that’s impossible, but he wrung every ounce of performance out of it, which the others have not)

  18. Bernd Rosemeyer says:

    So which drivers would you wish to see in the Force India cars? Sutil seems to have some kind of agreement, while Liuzzi claims to have a firm contract. But if it were Sutil/Liuzzi, wouldn’t it have been announced long ago? So what is going on at FI regarding the drivers? Will they sell the seats to the highest bidders? How are the chances of, say, Quick Nick, Diresta, the Hulk, Chandhok, Karthikeyan, Senna, Digrassi, Klien, Delarosa, to name a few?

  19. Ryan Eckford says:

    2010 was a solid consistant year for Force India, not quite the huge result of the Pole Position and 2nd place at Belgium the year before, but a better year overall.

    The categories that I measured the 2010 cars in include:
    Car Driveability, All Round Car Ability, Low Downforce Circuits, Medium Downforce Circuits, High Downforce Circuits, High Speed Circuits, Medium Speed Circuits and Low Speed Circuits.

    The categories in order of strength for the VJM03 are:
    1. Medium Speed Circuits(6th)
    2. Car Driveability(6th)
    3. Low Downforce Circuits(7th)
    4. High Downforce Circuits(7th)
    5. Low Speed Circuits(7th)
    6. Medium Downforce Circuits(8th)
    7. High Speed Circuits(8th)
    8. All Round Car Ability(8th)

    Sutil has had another solid season again for Force India, while Liuzzi had a quiet disappointing season. Overall, Force India had a solid consistant season.

    Before I finish this reply, I want to talk about the driver situation involving Force India for 2011. I think what is happening is that Toro Rosso are waiting for Force India to make a decision on their driver lineup, so that they can make a decision on their lineup. I think Force India will keep Sutil and promote Di Resta, and Toro Rosso will keep one of their drivers and sign Hulkenberg. What do you think James?

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