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.
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.