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Has Force India got the downforce to challenge?
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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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?


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.



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.


Not heard that but I will investigate, thanks.


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.


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.


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.


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…


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.


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…


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.


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.


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.


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.


that is the least of their concerns right now.


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


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?


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.


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


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


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?


Come on Adrian, deliver the goods.


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?!


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.


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 …


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…


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.


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


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.


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.


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?


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.


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.


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.


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…




“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.


Sorry – pressed submit too quickly then.

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


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

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