Some unfinished business
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Force India targetting fifth, which means drivers must deliver
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Posted By: James Allen  |  03 Feb 2012   |  12:10 pm GMT  |  55 comments

Sahara Force India revealed its new car today at a freezing cold Silverstone, with a young dynamic driver line up and an ambitious target; to attain fifth place in the constructors’ championship.

Paul di Resta, Nico Hulkenberg and third driver Jules Bianchi look a potent force, with Force India’s proven system of developing young drivers through the Friday morning practice sessions working on several levels.

It helps to bring through young drivers and to give them valuable track time, helping them to get race sharp and it puts constant pressure on the race drivers, which keeps them sharp and it gives the team the opportunity to constantly assess progress.

The team has changed one driver in each of the last two years but with Di Resta and Hulkenberg there could be an argument for a few seasons of stability. Bianchi will be hoping otherwise, but with less than 40 Grand Prix starts between them but a couple of years each of time in F1 the two race drivers look well matched.

Both have shown at various times speed, intelligence and the ability to be measured. Di Resta in particular impresses with his approach of building up his speed to a peak at the right moment in qualifying. Hulkenberg showed intelligence and speed in his year at Williams and his pole position in Brazil in 2010 was impressive. It wasn’t just a fluke lap on the right tyres in damp conditions, it was nine consecutive best sector times. He was on it.

For Sahara Force India to achieve fifth it is essential that the drivers deliver consistently strong performances across every race weekend. Last year was a bit peaky, with some outstanding weekends punctuated with others where opportunities were missed. Strong qualifying didn’t always lead to strong races. To get fifth, they must be looking to score points most weekends and get plenty of top 6 finishes, which won’t be easy if Mercedes improve this season.

Force India mixed it with – and beat – Mercedes at times in teh second half of last year and kept Lotus Renault behind them. To achieve fifth they will need to finish ahead of the Enstone team as well as Sauber, Toro Rosso and Williams.

The battle in the midfield looks set to be very intense.


As far as the car in concerned, Force India have a clear aerodynamic direction and the car is believed to have very encouraging numbers from the wind tunnel. It uses some of the thinking pioneered by Red Bull in terms of air flow under the nose section. For this reason, with new rules for 2012 about lowering the nose, they have gone for an ugly stepped solution as we’ve seen from Caterham and Ferrari too. At the moment, McLaren look like the odd ones out in not following the Red Bull vision.

The reason why the nose has been lowered in the rules is for safety; there was concern about a car going nose first into the side of another car and acting like a spear. By lowering the nose, they reduce the consequences of such an impact.

The other point of note from this morning’s launch is Force India’s ambitition together with the Sahara Group to go from a Premier League team to a Champions’ League team, in other words, to make the investment necessary to take on more staff, boost resources and become a top four team.

It’s being discussed with the shareholders at the moment and the management group hope to get the green light in the next few months to implement an expansion plan. The business pages tell the story of the troubles of owner Vijay Mallya’s Kingfisher Airlines group, which is suffering in India. Mallya’s number two Bob Fearnley told me this morning that this does not impact the F1 business and that together with Sahara Group Mallya is focussed on setting out the vision for the development of the team in the next phase.

Here is my interview with Nico Hulkenberg from today.

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55 Comments
  1. Jeff says:

    These stepped nose look very ugly. Just uninspiring.

    1. Simon says:

      Fortunately it’s just a couple of bolts holding it on. The boxer noses could disappear in no time if someone else comes up with a better design.

  2. Bluefroggle says:

    McLaren nicest looking car so far out of Caterham, McLaren, Ferrari, Force India.

    1. Wayne says:

      I have a feeling that much of the McLaren was a dummy mock up….. Still, who knows! If it wasn’t, I imagine they will be furiously rechecking their calculations to determine if they havn’t missed a trick afterall!

  3. I’m kind of confused as to how you can comment on teams going/not going “the Red Bull way” when Red Bull have yet to release their car?

    1. James Allen says:

      The vision Newey had three years ago and which others are now following…

      1. Roberto says:

        Does anybody remember when Ferrari “curved” the front wing in ther early 2000´s given them 5 straight world championships it wasn´t ugly but it was different, Williams tried with the Walrus nose which certainly it was realy ugly. If most teams are trying it is because should bring good benefits, todays regulations meant the cars are pretty ugly, for me one of the must beautifull cars in the modern era were the Ferrari and Mclaren from 2008 apart from the Ferrari of 2004, all of them victorious, let´s wait and see if ugly means fastest

      2. Andy says:

        Could ypu explain this vision? and why Mclaren is different?

    2. kidVermin says:

      If you look at the 2009 Machines, The MclaRen and the Ferrari Noses were fairly low, while the RedBull had an interestingly high One which was quite Narrow, and then it was both Widened and Flattened after a few races into the campaign. I’d always found the 2 approcches quite interesting. Also quite interesting is how the McLaren doesnt feature the distinct V.
      I’m more amazed that The Team that has most strayed from the redBull Norms (at least visually) has tended to be the Closest One.

      1. Tom says:

        It makes a certain amount of sense. Having your own philosophy and applying it well can be much more effective than trying to copy someone else.

  4. UncleZen says:

    That car has been hit with the ugly stick. How come only McLaren (so far) have delivered an attractive car.
    Lets wait and see how they perform on the track. If it goes fast, it doesnt matter how ugly (or pretty) it is.

    1. Trent says:

      It’s ugly and yet somehow I like it. Perhaps because it’s nice to see big changes – this is a car that is distinctly different from its predecessor.

  5. Adam T says:

    Im not liking the front of these cars, the “step” looks aweful, especially on the new Ferrari, but if it works it works

  6. Chris Crawford says:

    The new noses of these cars are just not right. I really hope Force India are fast, that is the main thing, but I always like beautiful looking race cars. Fith in the constructors is achievable,I’m expecting 5th 6th and 7th to be very competitive this year

  7. shane says:

    Although the McLaren MP4-27 is clearly a stunning car to look at, we now have Caterham, Ferrari and, Force India going for a stepped nose to aid airflow under the car. Does this mean McLaren start at a disadvantage? Or have they found something others have missed? I hope this doesn’t mean another year of the maccers playing chase up.

    1. Jonathan says:

      We have to assume that McLaren must have at least tried the raised front approach in the simulators/wind tunnels and not been able to get results which warrant them going down that path?

      I wonder if the other teams have found what McLaren haven’t, or if they have just copied Red Bull in the hope they’ll stumble across the magic design accidentally!

    2. MikeJ says:

      or maybe McLaren haven’t shown their full hand yet. Not sure, but one thing is certain and that there’s a lot more to come regarding rear wings!

    3. kidVermin says:

      McLaren are continuing with what they have been doing since who knows how long, and RedBull have been doing the High Nose since 2009. The Others have merely come to the conclusion that the RedBull Method is the Way to go about it. I dont think McLaren have missed a trick, i think they are sticking with a philospohy that serves their understanding well enough. Consider how High the F150 and Mercedes were. This is a bit of a non story for me.

    4. Miguel says:

      Historically the McLarens always had a lower nose than tye others.

  8. malli says:

    except dat nose the rest of d package looks impressive.

  9. Simple says:

    These platypus noses really are unatractive.

    1. mad79 says:

      I called them Duffy Duck nose :)

  10. MISTER says:

    Thanks for the article James. Good read as always.
    I have one question which you and my follow readers here might clarify for me.
    Why there has to be that “step” ? Why not smoothly bring the top of the car (where the step starts) to the very nose of the car?
    This way, the actual nose is still at the same distance from the ground, but we won’t see this ugly step 50-60 cm from the nose of the car.
    Why can’t we have that?

    1. james H says:

      the chassis can have a max height but the nose max height has to be lower,so to keep max airflow under the front of the car they keep the chassis and nose to the maximum height allowed in the rules.mclaren have a lower chassis so the can meet the nose cone with out the step.(i think thats right)

    2. Peter Scandlyn says:

      Similar thought.
      Hope we see an answer.

  11. UncleZen says:

    In response to shane, Mclaren have typically always had lower noses, so adjustment to accomodate the new rules is minimal (as I understand it)

  12. Andrew Carter says:

    I dont get the point of the lowered nose cones, if a car T-bones another one it’s still going to be nasty as theat nose will still hit the monocoque. Pointless rule change that just makes the cars ugly.

  13. mr sneff says:

    Have 3 teams (so far) really independently arrived at this step-nose design or is ‘spygate’ going to rear it’s head again? And have McLaren made a mistake by not following the trend?

  14. goferet says:

    Well, lots of surprises this morning, didn’t expect the other teams to follow the Caterham way.

    Say, if the FIA are worried that the old noses would act like spears in a collision with the side of another car, maybe the protective structures of these cars aren’t as safe as they would want us to believe and in my view those noses still look high enough to me if that is the case.

    And how come we have never seen these spear-to-the-side-of-a-car kind of collisions & if they have occurred, am pretty certain both drivers have survived.

    Maybe maybe the FIA are over reacting with this spear safety rule.

    What I gathered is the nose reductions came about to avoid the cars taking off & somersaulting like Webber did when he hit the back of Heikki’s car at Valencia 2010.

    Anyway, this dynamic duo at Force India, is one of the reasons the mid field will be fun to watch (in addiction to the Lotus & Torro Rosso pair) mainly because there’s so much hype surrounding them even though they got beat by their teammates (which teammates weren’t exactly ace drivers) in their first seasons.

    As for clinching 5th, Force India just might do it you know, it all depends on which Kimi appears on the grid & if he can also get to grips with the Pirellis.

    But one worrying thing for the season at hand, with so much action slated to take place up and down the grid, this can only mean we are guaranteed to miss most of the good stuff especially with the efficient FOM directors at our disposal.

    Hopefully SKY can get this sorted!

  15. Robert says:

    So far it is only McLaren who were able to present a beaut. For me, the other cars looks simply ridiculous and ugly. The only nice picture of the Ferrari is from the side, where you do not see the stepped-nose. The Force India car is even worse then the Ferrari and Caterham.

    I really hope that the Red Bull and Mercedes cars will look nice, like McLaren’s car.

    James, can you please clarify the new rule. I understand that the front section of the nose has to be lower, for the reasons that you have explained. McLaren’s interpretation of the rule, is it legal? The design route followed by the other teams, is it purely for aerodynamics or do you think that they have interpreted the rule differently?

    1. James Allen says:

      The reason they do low nose with a step up is to maximise the flow under the nose section. McLaren’s lower solution would appear not to be maximising that flow opportunity. That’s the issue

  16. Kenji says:

    If the car is fast, it will past before our eyes in an instant, and the audience will be spared some eye torture.

  17. Chris says:

    It looks like a hammer shark – :(

    Bet all cars look very different by the end of the year!!!

  18. Victor says:

    “there was concern about a car going nose first into the side of another car and acting like a spear”. My previous understanding was that the lower nose should prevent the car from getting airborne when hitting the back of another car (think of Mark Webber in Valencia ’10 and Ralf Schumacher in Melbourne ’02). Both arguments stand on safety grounds, though.

  19. Simon K says:

    The stepped nose does not look great but does it really matter? I think far too much attention is spent on matters such us this and personally am more interested at this stage in the pre-season testing and the 1st race of the season where it will be become clearer as to the good and not so good cars. Also if any of the teams can take the fight to Red Bull from the beginning of the season who I am sure will have another great car this season.

  20. I can’t help feeling the stepped nose is going to result in quite a drag penalty, especially on the Ferrari.

    McLaren have gone for the Brawn 2009 type nose (although not as droopy) and it remains to be seen if they can get the air flowing under the car properly or not. But they should hit the ground running.

    Does anyone know if it would be possible to switch to a platypus nose if it proves to be the optimal solution?

  21. JB says:

    Oh no… Caterham, Ferrari and Force India have all join the ugly nose club!! Yuke….

  22. Jiri says:

    I am pretty sure that FI drivers will deliver, based on their performances in lower singleseaters and DTM I would say that the team actually has one of the best line-ups on the grid, maybe better than some fo the top 4 teams.

  23. Nil says:

    Hi James,

    What is the black protrusion at the tip of the nose? What purpose does it serve?

  24. Tyler says:

    By mid season it wont be an issue and will just be how it is… the nose that is. Remember when the tall narrow rear wing was introduced… 2 or 3 races in it just looked normal.

  25. Seán Craddock says:

    What’s the small black ‘wing’ bit at the very front? I’ve noticed them on every car over the years but never really found out what it’s for. It’s really far forward on the Fi. Is it a camera mount?

  26. giles gilham says:

    Intersting that it appears to have a camera on the end of it’s nose… I can’t recall seeing one there before

  27. Richard says:

    I think we should call it the “Croc” or “Gator” nose with the hump being the eyes!
    I think we’ll have to wait for Melbourne to see, but it will be interesting to see what Red Bull come up with this year.

  28. James says:

    It looks like it’s trying to eat the on-board nose camera…

  29. Rich C says:

    Whichever genius dreamed-up this new nose rule should be prosecuted.

  30. Tornillo Amarillo says:

    It is not only a platypus in Force India,
    it is a platypus with a horrible black fish in the mouth!

  31. hero_was_senna says:

    I’ve read through the postings here and wanted to add something. People speculate that Mclaren missed something, or the others have found something that Mclaren missed etc etc.

    In 2001, Sauber ran a car that had twin keel front suspension. It was deemed to be essential for any F1 car to be competitive. Mclaren and others followed suit. Bearing in mind, Newey was head of design at Mclaren at the time.
    Yet Rory Byrne and Ross Brawn tested the design and found it didn’t give any gains to their design, so they remained with the single keel.
    2002, Ferrari dominated. 2003 they won 50% of the races and both championships. In 2004 they dominated once again.
    What always struck me at the time was the F1 journalists almost derided Ferrari for the “old tech”
    I may be wrong, but I think most of the different options have been studied by the techies.
    What I do find interesting is that pull road front suspension… we’ll see

    1. hero_was_senna says:

      Doh!! Rod not road…

  32. tim says:

    Reading many comments on this site and several others, I’m struck by people thinking these new noses are designed as they are on purpose rather than to fit regulations. I thought F1 fans were knowledgeable about the technology and rules, unlike other racing fans. Not so much it seems.

    1. Richard says:

      I think enthusiasts are a pretty mixed bunch, and some are very knowledgeable, but with others it’s simply a passing interest. It has been explained in layman’s terms by Gary Anderson that the FIA have placed an imaginary 3 dimensional box positioned over the nose area that the nose cannot enter which explains the step in most cars and the sweeping curve and low nose of the McLaren. I much prefer the look of the McLaren, but I do hope they have not shot themselves in the foot with that beautiful design. – I doubt it, they will be far more aware than us and I expect they have optimised air flow in other ways such as underneath the side pods where I noticed quite a passage through.

  33. Richard says:

    The thing so far not mentioned is the effect on air flow of that pronounced step on top. 0f course it may not be detrimental, but there must be an effect.

  34. F1 says:

    James, do you think Paul will beat Nico over a full season? I reckon he beat Vettel in F3 but lost out to Sutil in F1. What is your prediction? I remember that over a full season Nico lost out to Barrichello but scored a pole, something Barrichello couldn’t achieve in the Williams. To me the fight at FI is one of the most interesting.

    Here’s my prediction of the team fights:

    RBR Vettel
    Mac Button
    Ferrari Alonso
    Merc Schumacher
    Lotus Räikkönen
    FI Hülkenberg
    Sauber Kobayashi
    STR Vergne
    Williams Senna
    Caterham Kovalainen
    HRT Delarosa
    Marussia Glock

  35. Onyx says:

    As someone who was lucky enough to be present at the launch,and just a fan,i thought the car looked very neat and not as ugly as is being suggested.Within a few races we will all be used to them.I think the Hulk is the next great thing and will be THE young driver of 2012.
    PS Nice to meet you James,keep up the great work!

    1. James Allen says:

      Great to meet you too, thanks for your input on the comments section

  36. surya kumar says:

    I do hope the VJM05 Lives upto its challenge given the very competitive Midfield this year it is going to be. With Little Experience b/w Nico & PDR it is going to be very interesting battle for both 5th Place and who comes out on top in the inter team battle. just cant wait for the season opener.

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