ANALYSIS – F1 2014 THE STORY SO FAR: Force India
Posted By: Justin Hynes  |  27 Apr 2014   |  10:42 am GMT  |  97 comments

With the first four ‘flyaway’ Grands Prix out of the way, it’s a good time to assess the start each team has made to the season and look at how each team has fared so far with the new hybrid turbo technology.

Over the next week or so, we will look in detail and what’s gone well and what hasn’t and assess the outlook for the season.

And the subject of the fourth in our series of post ‘flyaway’ analysis pieces is a team that has enjoyed its best start to a season since the days, many moons ago, when it was called Jordan.

Force India

Best result: P3 (Perez, Bahrain)
Best grid slot: 4th (Perez, Bahrain)
Average grid slot: 10th.
Retirements: 0 
(1 DNS, Perez Malaysia)
Constructors Championship: 3rd
Drivers’ Championship: P10 Perez, 18pts; P4 Hulkenberg 36pts

Fastest race lap, gap to pace setter
Australia: +0.732s
Malaysia: +2.916s
Bahrain: +1.765s
China: +1.862

What’s gone right?
Judging by the lofty position the team currently occupies in the Constructors’ Championship – 3rd – clearly quite a lot. Back in February Deputy Team Principal Bob Fernley said “It will be engine-dominated this year and the biggest differential for teams would be who got the right engine and at the right time” and as the opening races of the season have unfolded it has become clear that Force India’s decision last year to switch its focus to 2014 early and work on maximizing the potential of the Mercedes power unit has paid off.

It wasn’t a totally smooth run, however, and even in testing the team struggled with integration of the new power unit, but as the mileage stacked up so did the team’s performance with Nico Hulkenberg topping the timesheets on day one of the first Bahrain test and Sergio Perez going quickest on the first two days of the final Bahrain test.

They have improved on their end-of-testing status as the second best Mercedes customer team (after Williams) across the first four grands prix. Hulkenberg grabbed a solid sixth in Melbourne and in Malaysia the team converted a two-stop strategy into fifth place for the German. On both occasions he was involved in a tough battles with Fernando Alonso and in tussling with the two-time champion once again showed that he is one of the grid’s unsung heroes – even though his failing tyres prevented him sustaining the battle against Alonso in Speang. Another very solid fifth followed in Bahrain. Eeven in China, where the team had itself predicted a lackluster weekend, Hulkenberg put in an excellent performance, qualifying eighth in the rain and

Perez’s opening races were troubled (a collision and puncture in Melbourne and a failure to start the race in Malaysia) but he delivered an excellent drive in Bahrain, with perfectly executed strategy creating the chance, to hold off Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo for just long enough to claim the team’s first podium finish since Belgium 2009.

What’s gone wrong?
Not a lot. The Chinese Grand Prix revealed the shortcomings of the VJM07 with the front-limited nature of the circuit affecting both drivers badly. It’s a problem Fernley expects to crop up again, too.

“[Shanghai is] a very front-limited circuit and it just doesn’t quite fit in to the way we operate the car,” he said after the race in China. “This circuit is very specific in being a challenge to us, whereas Bahrain is exactly the opposite. So you’re talking two ends of the spectrum: one suits the car really well and other doesn’t fit for us. At our best circuits we are podium potential and at our worst circuits we’re looking at being top six, and that is the consistency we need to put on a strong challenge from a constructors’ point of view.”

That means that the team could also struggle at tracks such as the Circuit de Catalunya.

Strong points of the team and car
They have an excellent driver pairing in Hulkenberg and Perez. The Mexican’s reputation took a battering during his year at McLaren but he is highly motivated to prove doubters wrong and Fernley is convinced that the experience has made Perez a better racer. “I thought that the last six months that he was with McLaren he matured well. He still had that aggressive touch but it was contained. [In] the second six months he was very measured in the way he approached things and had great success in terms of what he was doing driving-wise. I believe that, again, we have benefited from the McLaren process.”

Hulkenberg’s tally for the season tells its own story – fourth in the Drivers’ Championship and with 36 points in the bag. The German’s quality and consistency is a major asset.

Elsewhere, perhaps the major strength of Force India is its compactness. There are few distractions beyond making a good racing car, the personnel are experience enough to know how to get that done and as long as the resources are there to back them up they will get it done.

After ending its technical partnership with McLaren, the team also has a long-term agreement with Mercedes for power units, gearboxes and hydraulics that according to Toto Wolff would see Force India through the entire lifecycle of the V6.

Weak points of the team and the car
At the moment it looks like there are few genuine weak points. If anything the VJM07 began the season as a relatively conservative package but the team’s Technical Director Andy Green recently revealed that that situation won’t last with the China package of upgrades to be followed by more in Barcelona and more in Canada, where a new cooling layout is scheduled along with revised and tighter bodywork. In short, they’ve built a decent car and have plenty of scope to develop it.

Where do they go from here?
The team has brought a steady flow of upgrades so far, including the introduction of FRIC suspension, a revised rear diffuser, split bargeboards, modifications to the rear wing  and new more tightly sculpted sidepods but it remains to be seen whether it can sustain development of the car across the whole season. They team says it can and if they can maintain the impetus then there is a good chance they will reach their stated goal of being best of the rest.

Certainly the sunny early season the team has been enjoying is the period in which to make hay. While the fortunes of their usual midfield rivals such as Sauber and Toro Rosso ebb and flow, and while generally better performing rivals flounder the Silverstone squad can prosper, shoring up enough points to see them through any lean patches that may develop as the season progresses.

There’s no reason for that to be the target though. The Mercedes power unit, the team’s assiduous preparations and the presence of one driver of undervalued skill and another with a huge point to prove means they have the ability to battle for at least fourth in the Constructors’ battle – as long as they have the wherewithal to do so. In recent seasons they have performed well in end of season races, showing that they can develop a car.

Overall Marks out of 10
Force India – 8/10
Nico Hulkenberg – 8/10
Sergio Perez – 7/10

How many marks out of ten do you give Force India so far? Leave us your comments on this post in the comments section below.


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force India punching above their weight till now.

I rate Hulk highly but it is the team principal at top teams and limited space at top teams that matter for his next move.


I have been saying time and again that this is one good team which for some reason doesn’t get its due coverage and appreciation.

They have been quite consistent in terms of their perfomances, which as we have seen, is very difficult for teams on limited budget.

Case and example – Lotus

2010 -68 pts (7th)

2011 -69 pts (6th)

2012 – 109pts (7th)

2013 – 77 pts (6th)

2014 – 54 pts from 4 races already.

The 2012 season is an anomaly because of the randomness due to the tires. They actually had better perfomances in 2011 & 2013 in terms of championship standings.

Their driver lineups throughout the years has been impressive keeping in mind their status as a midfield team.

Giancarlo Fisichella

Adrian Sutil

Paul Di Riesta

Tonio Liuzzi

Nico Hulkenberg

Sergio Perez

Like them or hate them but most would agree that this is a list of solid drivers who deserve/d a chance in F1 and wern’t there solely due to sponsorships.

Add to that Mallyas principle of not standing in his drivers way if ever a bigger team comes calling. They let Fisichella go. Sure, he would benefit from the situation but he catgorically stated (for Hulk) that the drivers progress would never be hindered.

Glad to see them doing quite well.


Force India have done a really good job so far. Sure they may not have the speed of Mercedes, but they are very competitive against all other teams.

In terms of the drivers, Hulkenberg has done a fantastic job so far, and it seems like he will be a consistent Top 5/6 finisher this season in that car. Perez has been inconsistent, but has got the big result of the season so far for the team, so he and the team has got to find a way to be more consistent.

Overall, Force India are doing quite well at the moment.

kenneth chapman

by memory hulkenberg came to initial prominence as a result of his pole position in brazil when he was driving a williams.

some people went ‘bananas’ and proclaimed him as the new messiah but he was never able to replicate that. he was simply in the right place at the right time on the right tyres in quali 3.

since then his career has been somewhat erratic and he has never quite made that leap from average to special. yes, he has had some good races lately but until he can reclaim that special moment i fear that he will simply become just another entry in a long list of ‘possibles’.

perez though has the right ingredients and as i said earlier, he does have the ability to make that leap but once again only if circumstances are suitable. the rest of the year will be fascinating to watch and i will be paying a bit more attention to this team from now on.


Nico Hulkenberg is the new Nick Heidfeld. Always impressing, but always getting overshadowed in important moments such as Sergio Perez scoring a great podium for Force India.

Is it not a bit weird that Hulkenberg has still not delivered a Podium, while the likes of Maldonado, Grosjean & Perez have been able to pull some stunners driving similar midfield cars.


“After ending its technical partnership with McLaren, the team also has a long-term agreement with Mercedes for power units, gearboxes and hydraulics that according to Toto Wolff would see Force India through the entire lifecycle of the V6…”

“The team has brought a steady flow of upgrades so far, including the introduction of FRIC suspension.”

Presumably the FRIC system is the Mercedes developed one as they have a long-term agreement with them that covers hydraulics, although you don’t say so specifically, James? This would certainly help with tyre wear and temperatures due to more consistent aero performance. Do you know when FI introduced their FRIC and is it the Mercedes developed hydraulic system?

According to Matt Somerfield this helps with “mechanical grip and aiding in a consistent aerodynamic platform.”

When Pirelli did the 2014 tyre tests with Mercedes in 2013 they used a current car which would have their FRIC system on it. Maybe that explains why more downforce alone didn’t help Seb keep his tyres switched on in China.

You say “That means that the team could also struggle at tracks such as the Circuit de Catalunya.” As Pirelli claim Barcelona is one of two tracks that put the most energy into the tyres and FI are running a FRIC system which should help with tyre wear and temperatures, why do you think they may struggle there. Is it a front limited track or usually a cold track? I’d be interested in the reason for this if you have it to hand, James.

Oh some tyre thermal imaging and in-car video on Matt’s blog, from China GP for those who haven’t seen it:


Hulkenberg is an amazing talent. The only thing that keeps me from putting him in same class as Hamilton, Vettel, Alonso, and Raikkonen is the fact that he has not driven for a top team yet. In my mind, you need to show you can deal with the pressure and responsibility to produce results when you are in this position in order to be elite. History is full of very talented drivers who buckled when put in the position to win.

I hope Hulkenberg gets in the position to do this soon, and I have little doubt that he will deliver when he does. I think he’s got just as much talent as the guys in the elite four, and he showed in Korea last year with the way that he was able to hold off Hamilton and Alonso that he’s got the brains and the speed to be in the elite class (What, with the way that he cleverly used Sauber’s great acceleration out of Turn 2 and top line speed to stay ahead). He may even be the best out there.

As for the rest of the team, they’re the best Mercedes customer right now. I recall VJ making a heavy investment about a year and a half ago in shop upgrades, and they seem to be delivering. I hope the team can attract the funding they need to keep going, because they really have some clever guys working there who are making lots of sweet lemonade.

David in Sydney

To me they’ll always be Jordan… my favourite team until Eddie had a tizzy fit and sacked Frentzen… they are showing the way to many lower and higher teams: why do people criticise Mallya when he’s doing a much better job at rich-boy-goes-racing than, say, Fernandes did.


FI were good last season as well until pirelli changed the tyres mid-season.


Or Branson for that matter…

FI were sort of wallowing in the midfield there for a few years (and that’s still more than the other two managed), but clearly this year they’ve turned it up a notch so all credit to them and hopefully they can continue to improve.


Hi James,

I was wondering if it would be possible for you to do a piece on Nico Hulkenberg? I mean what on earth does he need to do to be signed up by a big team or what exactly is getting in the way of that?

One has to be blind not to notice him. It can’t be that people up and down the pitlane do not recognize his talent or is it just people like me who are trying to see things that are not there?

Would appreciate it if you could get around to telling us what you think of it.



I really like and rate Hulk but when it comes to the stats boys – Perez has the podiums to his name and Hulk has choked or been in trouble when it was possible. I wonder if teams ever take that into account? It’s weird you ask anyone and I have yet to find a single person who thinks Perez is a better driver than Hulk but if you looked back on their careers in the future Perez would sit way above Hulk in the stats books. It’s an odd world…


You are right in the way that Perez peaks are higher than Hulk’s, but if you like the stats, Hulk is a driver who can get more points than Perez consistently. Maybe Perez will have better positions at the end of the year, but probably Hulk will defeat him in the score which is what matters at the end. I mean, yes 4 podiums but then…a lot of 11 positions. Hulk now is a better and mature driver (I now you are referring to Brazil 2012) and that is why he is rated higher than Perez so far. At the end of the season we will have a clear picture and basically these season could be the final test for them to get a top ride or stay forever in a midfield car.


AuraF1, I had to do my homework after your post and here is what I found:

Races started: 59Per, 61Hul

Total points: 147, 172

Points finishes: 26, 32

Points per race: 2.3, 2.8, so no big difference

Podiums: 4,0

Poles: 0,1

So stats wise they are fairly even and as you say Checo has the edge on podiums, and Hulk has the edge on poles and is a bit more consistent in points

What makes me think Hulk is better overall are two things: higher quali placings, which translate into better race results and more adaptability when the car is a bit off, where Checo struggles

2012 placings

Per 10th with 66 points in a “fast” Sauber

Hul 11th with 63 points in a “so so” FI splitting the Saubers

2013 placings

Hul 10th with 51 points in a “slow” Sauber splitting the Macs

Per 11th with 49 points in the worst Mac ever

Take last race as example: Bad track for FI, Hulk starts from 8 and ends up in 6 after passing both Williams (one on track, one from pit error)

Checo starts from 16 and ends up in 9 (passes 2 TRs and 2 Macs while laughing his heart out, GRO and SUT retire)

Who did a better race? I think Checo had to fight harder, but Hulk did his job in quali and in the end delivered more points

They would both be winning in MBs or RBRs, I think, but Checo in an under par Ferrari would be struggling, where maybe Hulk would be closer to ALO


Oh yes I admit it’s a very odd situation – if I were a team owner I’d be pushing to employ Hulk before Perez – I just didn’t quite know why. We often compare racers and look back on their stats to compare them. The interesting thing is stats don’t tell the whole story. I just wondered how much teams put on actual recorded podiums and the like and how much is down to more ephemeral calculations – the weird thing reading a lot of fans opinions of drivers is that when it’s a driver they dislike stats are often held up as the only important factor – when it’s a driver they admire – poor stats are suddenly pointless and don’t tell the whole story… Human nature I guess!


What does front-limited circuit mean?


Can’t see Hulk going to top 3 team unfortunately since he is already in a top 4 team. Ferrari, never- they like their midgets and FA will veto it. Red-bull just signed Danny boy and have a couple of others waiting. As for Mercedes, also a long shot- unless either driver really derails and falls off the wagon which is unlikely.

So the bottom line is Hulk stays where he is for a couple of years.

SP has the odd sparkle, but lacks consistency over a season. Force India has performed impressively and deserve a 9.5/10 for their efforts to date!


alonso will veto it? then what is kimi raikonen doing in the second ferrari?


Hi James,

Could you write about front limited tracks and rear limited cars and how they interact? I mean that it would be nice for someone to explain these in laymans terms as they are getting thrown around quite a bit this season.

BR, Iiro


I’d be very surprised if they (or perhaps Williams due to the connection with whatsisname) aren’t getting extra engine supplier support from Mercedes over Mclaren because Mclaren are leaving them as a customer next year.

It’s just speculation. With several teams all benefitting from the Mercedes engine, Mercedes could well do without the biggest potential threat in the form of Mclaren if they are not hanging around.


You’re just speculating Carl Craven but it’s an interesting thought.


Can please someone explain what a “front-limited” circuit means ?

I keep hearing this expression but I don’t understand what it means in terms of characteristics it imposes to cars or tyres.



In a front-limited circuit the front tyres are under greater stress than the rears…hence higher degradation (graining) of front tyres.


Front limited circuit means the car has less grip at the front. This is due to the geometry of the corners, camber, nature of the tarmac, effecting the balance that limit the car attaining grip in the front end. For eg a downhill long straight, into 220 deg right hander with an off camber slope will cause front right wheel to unload & sometimes lock on the limit which means drivers have to lift more than the rest of car can handle- this means the inside tyre locks & slides more causing ” graining” & degradation. Sometimes when the corners are “on- camber” ( slopes outside- in)- the car can load up its front left beacuse the weight of the car is “leaning” on the camber of the tarmac causing over heating- this is the case with China with high speed right handers ) t1 in particular.. Hope it helps


that’s an excellent explanation professor


Thanks a lot to both of you.


Glad Perez has somewhere to rebuild his rep. If he had stayed at Mclaren they would have been busy blaming him for the teams bad start to the year and he may not have even been in F1 next year.

Matthew Cheshire

An “A” grade was 85% at school so Force India should have 8.5 minimum.

I’d give the team and Hulk 9.

8 for Perez (B+)

I’m not sure Hulk is an “unsung hero” given that he is rated highly by fans and by other teams. But he is undervalued given that he should be in a top team.

But he has the opportunity to promote himself- given that Force India has the chance to achieve second in the constructors and therefore become a” top level team”. And Perez can beat his old team too. Nice for him!


Hamilton leaves McLaren for Mercedes, and Mercedes start beating McLaren.

Perez leaves McLaren for Force India, and Force India start beating McLaren.

Better hope that when Button/Magnussen leave it’s not to Caterham or Marussia…


And Alonso left McLaren and…oops 😉


Sounds like they’re a good organization


Anyone been following the lower up coming formulas?? looks like Carlos Sainz jnr is likely to be the next big thing in F1 seems to have a staggering edge over his competitors.


Yeah I was gutted for him not getting the Torro Rosso drive this year. To me his times and consistency in last years test were fantastic. Obviously Kvyat was impressive too- i guess it came down to other things also.. But Sainz was quick in both Red Bull cars !- I think hes on a mission to get what I feel is rightfully his!! Lets hope he gets he gets it soon !


He may get Vergne’s seat. Cause he is not performing and Torro Rosso mainly keeps driver for 3 yrs.

Matthew Cheshire

You’d think so. Vergne should be looking around for a drive because Ricciardo must have the red bull seat sewn up tightly now.

You can’t stay at school forever.


I think Perez is a bit over rated there. Yes, he was excellent in Bahrain but he’s been well off Hulks pace in Melbourne, Sepang and Shanghai. That lack of consistency will hurt the team further down the line.


The problem is car consistency not Perez consistency, once they give him a balance setup for Perez he will beat Hulk off easily, 4 podiums already for Perez 0 for Hulk remember that


LOL, that’s a convenient excuse for being over 1s off his team mates pace and struggling badly to get out of Q1 in the first to races this year, and it was nearly 2.5s in qualy at Shanghai. That 2012 Sauber was a considerably better car than Hulk has ever had to drive either so comparing podiums is useless.

Perez is a good driver but not on Hulks level at all, Bahrain will be one of the few occasions that he beats him.

Guillermo Solares

The Season still too early to speak out loud but people was saying same thing last year cmparing him vs Button. At the end Perez improved his qualifying beaten Button. I am not expecting Perez to beat Hulk but it seems he can adapt. It is also not fair to say he didn’t score any points in the second race as it was a technical failure and not Perez failure. Hope this team can keeping up the good work and give better spectacule for F1 lovers. Cheers!




Good to see Force India doing well. Im not at all surprised that Perez has got their first podium since 2009- Im certainly not a Perez fan after his crazy driving in the first part of 2013.Whilst I rate Hulkenberg highly- unlike many I only see him as a 5th or 6th best racer and Brazil 2012 fighting Hamiltons Mclaren showed me he is not top notch- he can be overly aggressive on some starts to & has often clipped a number of drivers in the firs few corners.I dont question why the top teams havent given him a top level seat whilst I do believe he is “among the best of rest”

Very interesting note in the FRICS system and Im curious which teams are still running FRICS and whether theres some new technical set ups in this area.


Yes I would give Force india 8/10

But I would give Hulkenberg 7.5/10

Perez also 7.5/10.

I dont think its fair to judge drivers when technical difficulties prevent them from running as happened in aust. This also leads to less track time and in this new formula its absolutely critical – so Perez did great to jump straight onto the podium after that. Thats also a good indication of the team and car to be able to recover .


SFI will announce a major new sponsor on wednesday. Its Smirnoff Vodka.


Definitely Force India have been the surprise of the early season for here we have a mid field team that’s performing remarkably against powerhouses such as Mclaren, Lotus, Red Bull and Williams.

And it’s interesting that the team are struggling at front end circuits whereas Ferrari are the exact opposite >>> for all we know, Force India may take the fight to Ferrari once we get back to the traction circuits.

Good to see Hulkenberg prove his worth, surely, 2014 should be the year we see the lad make the step up into a top team just like a certain Riccardo.

Likewise, glad to see Perez get back his self confidence and as we saw in Bahrain, a confident Perez can log in some brilliant drives.

It’s a shame though that just as the team were doing well, that’s when there home race got dropped for it would have been awesome for the fans to get a good result at home.

Ironically, the opposite is happening with Red Bull in that just when they’re struggling, that’s the year they got back this home race.


“And it’s interesting that the team are struggling at front end circuits whereas Ferrari are the exact opposite”

I’d hardly say they’re struggling, I mean they weren’t blasting past Ferrari’s and challenging for a podium like in Bahrain but they were just as they have been elsewhere, and they were only behind the “big 3”.


Couldn’t agree more about the Incredible Hulk.

Autosport have been banging the drum for him for years in terms of “why hasn’t the big four got his signature on a contract to drive for them?” – the likes of Mark Hughes has been singing his praises for yonks.

Me too – lets look at his peaks: an amazing pole for a dog-eared Williams in 2010 on a greasy track; a startling performance at Brazil 2012 where he led on merit – again on a greasy track – although shame about the collision with Lewis, and then his incredible performances at Monza and Korea last year where he kept a snarling pack of better funded drivers and teams behind him.

I hope the Big Four read this forum and if they do: Ron, Luca, Paddy and Christian: get that Hulky boy signed up ASAP!

PS Perhaps one of them already has reached a pre-agreement with the Hulk??


@ Gaz Boy

Also the Hulks GP2 career all adds up to a pretty impressive career for if one is looking for a true racer, they should look no farther this raw talent.


I suspect if the other Nico keeps getting his posterior kicked by Lewis then Toto and Paddy may invite Hulky Boy round the Mercedes-Benz motorhome for a cup of coffee and a contract………

Or Luca??


PS Mr ratings are:

Force India 8.5/10

Sergio – 7/10 (great effort in Bahrain, but taken to the cleaners by Hulky in AUS, MAL and CHINA)

Hulky 9.5/10 – consistently hits the peaks every race. What more has he go to do to impress people called Luca, Paddy and Christian?????


“Hulky”? What a ridicuolus nickname, just as “Schumi”.


Should Perez and Hulk be equal on marks out of 10?

We’ve been heaping praises on Hulk for a good while now. But what happened when the chance of a podium for the team came along?

It was Perez who seized it, not Hulk.


Phil, I hate what I am about to say (I am from Mexico), but I do think Hulk is marginally better than Checo, more German precision instead of Latin flair, if you will

He is a more consistent points scorer, faster qualifier, and I also think more adaptable, a la Alonso

Checo is fast when he likes the car, as in Sauber, (or this years Bahrain), but has problems when having a not so good one, as in McLaren (or this years China)

Hulk got 51 points last year from a Sauber while Checo got 49 from a McLaren

Maybe goferet can enlighten us but I think Checo holds the record for 11th place finishes since 2011, that means just one spot out of the points, on the other hand he has 4 podiums to Hulks none

My forecast is that Hulk will end the season with more points than Checo even if Checo might get higher placings from time to time. He might even win a race if the track suits the FIs and the MBs wipe each other out

I hope Checo proves me wrong and beats Hulk for the season, and I hope Hulk gets some podiums he already deserves

And for my last wish I hope FI can hold Ferrari behind and end up 3rd behind the MBs and RBRs


Your analysis is exactly what I think, Perez could be very fast one race and disappear in the next one, it has happened since he arrived in F1, on the other side Hulk has been very consistent and I also expect Hulk to have more points at the end of the year even if Perez peaks are higher.


@ ferggsa

Si amigo, you’re quite spot on with the Hulk/Perez stats.


FI said Hulk’s power unit wasn’t able at run at full power for some reason after the safety car. Not to take anything away from Perez, but he’s had one good race, Hulk has had 4.


I’m with you on that one.

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