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Analysis: The fourth is strong with Force India – will Williams recover from Spanish woes?
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Posted By: Editor   |  15 May 2017   |  5:18 pm GMT  |  121 comments

Force India didn’t party much on Sunday night after being hit with a suspended €25,000 fine by FIA Stewards for failing to comply with Formula 1’s new numbering regulations – but it’s clear that the only number the pink outfit cares about is fourth.

The fight to be at the top of the midfield is just as competitive as the gripping lead battle this season, at times impossible to predict, as Williams, Haas, Force India, Toro Rosso, and Renault spar with all their might.

A spectacular fourth and fifth place finish in Spain continues Force India’s 100% points-scoring record this season so far as Esteban Ocon finished with a career-best fifth, a place behind the ever-reliable and much sought-after Sergio Perez. That was another 22 points in the bag on a day when Williams scored nothing.

Perez and Ocon’s latest success brought the team closer to Red Bull as Max Verstappen recorded a DNF, which is unprecedented seeing as Force India has downplayed its fourth-place credentials repeatedly, let alone any improvement on that.

Perez said, “I think Williams and Renault are a bit ahead, Toro Rosso as well,” to Motorsport.com after the race in Bahrain last month in which he qualified 18th but finished seventh.

Behind Ocon was former Force India driver Nico Hulkenberg, sixth in the Renault and even Pascal Wehrlein of Sauber managed to score points after a convincing one-stop strategy race, having recovered from his early season injuries to earn an eighth place finish this weekend.

On the other hand, Williams, who expected to hold fourth in the constructors’ championship, are losing the battle for the coveted place, sitting far behind in sixth at the moment as rookie Lance Stroll finished 16th and Felipe Massa three places ahead for the Spanish GP.

Spanish struggles

Massa’s downfall started and ended with his Turn 2 puncture on the opening lap after contact which sent McLaren’s Fernando Alonso careering through the gravel. It was a racing incident and no blame was apportioned, but this made a points finish impossible for the briefly-retired Brazilian.

“His pace in clean air was very strong: He was matching Daniel [Ricciardo] lap-for-lap on his first stint. I think we had the potential to have a very good result,” said Williams’ Chief Technical Officer Paddy Lowe after the race.

Massa’s gap to Ricciardo only increased by 2.54 seconds after that first unfortunate pitstop. Massa’s race start was unlucky but there are still questions around Stroll.

It was a sorry sight for the young Canadian, who at one point was more than 50s ahead of Massa and even after having taken one fewer pitstop than the veteran, he finished more than 11.5s behind. Moreover, on lap 52, Stroll was overtaken by Marcus Ericsson whose Sauber is equipped with last year’s Ferrari engine.

Running on medium compounds pushed Stroll further down the field, his times dropping off below the 1m32s mark while Massa was lapping nearly six seconds faster on each of those final three laps.

What’s reassuring for Stroll is that his fastest lap was just over 0.3s slower than Massa’s and he wasn’t completely off the pace on soft tyres.

Williams’ engine also recorded the fastest speed trap time, at 211mph – 17mph faster than that recorded by Hulkenberg’s Renault – which may be a cause for concern for its midfield rivals as they race on power-hungry circuits like Montreal and Baku next month.

Stroll now has his work cut out for the Monaco GP, which he may have to write-off as a learning experience this year.

“In reality, nothing compares to Monaco,” said his team-mate to Le Journal de Montreal.

“Monaco is one of the toughest tracks of the season. Probably the most demanding of all, in fact. There are still problems for seasoned drivers.

“Lance is going to have a hard life in Monaco,” he continued.

Midfield mastery

Monaco has been a rich hunting ground for Force India in recent years. However Ocon has never raced in the Principality and it’s fair to say the learning curve will be as steep for him as it will be for Stroll.

Perez, on the other hand, took a podium as he finished third in the 2016 Monaco GP and while repeating that may be a tough ask, it’s expected that Force India should consolidate their top-four spot on May 28, especially as Fernando Alonso will not be charging hard in the McLaren on the only track where they could pose a real threat for the foreseeable future.

All eyes will be on this fascinating battle after Monaco, as teams scrabble to implement further upgrades for the Canadian race. Williams updated its aerodynamics and chassis last season and the same could happen in June, and again, the long straights should suit the FW40s.

But Force India, with a 32-point advantage over fifth-place constructor Renault, have little to worry about for now.

The team may have clocked up a suspended €25,000 fine for improper display of numbers after the Spanish GP, but Force India’s problems seems incomparable to those that rivals Renault, Williams and Toro Rosso are facing in that battle for midfield supremacy.

Do you think Williams will recover or is Force India untouchable at the top of the midfield? Have your say in the comment section below or on JA on F1’s Facebook.

 

 

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1

say all you want about Stroll, this kid has got cajones – stick yourself in that situation, blasting down the straight to turn one, cars literally everywhere – midfield runners have often got to deal with mega traffic – pay driver or not, respect is due.

2

Would it be very difficult to quote the speed also in kph?

3

The Spanish GP was not a good set up for Williams. Temperature differences between practice/qualifying days and race day proved to add to their set up woes.

Massa was expected to set up the car as his teammates’ inexperience could hardly add further insight into set up. The result was a one off in my opinion.

So will the team recover? Well as long as people believe that a team like Williams can continue to afford to “write off ” one of their drivers performance due to ” learning experience ” ( or the lack there of), then no the team will not recover.

Force India has two good racers – Ocon and Perez. Williams has a team principal in denial, that somehow Mr. Stroll will “evolve” in F1 as a dominant figure…… rubbish.

4

It’s not that force india are that good it’s just Williams & Renault are bad. What people are missing is their has been major regulation, technical churning in both teams. It’ll take some time to get both teams stable.
As for lance It’s easy to attack new guy but he’s been here for short while. I’ll give him 2 more races to show his ability,to say he was rushed too soon is pointless now. Anyway I like the fact Williams have accepted the fact lance is on grid because of them they are taking responsibility for their decision and not scapegoating him.
I feel legal troubles of Sahara & Vijay had helped FI as both are control freaks who have run every operation they’ve been involved in to ground. This enforced hands-off approach is what’s driving their success. I really want force india to be bought by a responsible organisation who can take them forward. As for Williams next year should bring results if not Claire should move on.

5

Hi James, I like the heading of this write-up. I wonder if anybody else picked up on the humour. As for fine, were the teams aware of the consequences of not complying with the new rule? …Or did Fourth India weigh implementing cost vs paying the fine and decided on the latter? I personally think that changing the rules mid season negatively impacts the teams financially especially smaller teams.

6

As so many have said, full marks to FIndia for their efficiency as well as choosing good drivers – both consistently scoring points. Williams i fear are wasting a rather good car with a weaker driver line-up – or more precisely only scoring with one driver. And as much as I have been a fan of Felipe he is past his best. Williams took a gamble with Stroll for the sake of money – I don’t think it will work out as Stroll is no Verstappen, and at best nearly as good as Guttierez!

7

I saw Maldonado at Barcelona and i immediately thought…what’s he doing here? After all he’s the last Williams driver to win a race!!!!!

8

Paul DiResta might find himself driving on Sunday in Monaco, if Williams can repair the car in time after Strolls crash/crashes on Friday and Saturday.

9

Thursday and Saturday actually, being Monaco. Stroll’s $$$ will keep his seat warm and dry.

10

Think Williams will be bringing an extra lorry full of spare parts this weekend?

11

I am hugely impressed with Force India this season and just when I think they cannot do any better (Russia) they go and prove me wrong. Simply, they are the only team so far that has not left anything on the plate in any of the five races so far. Immaculate driving from both drivers and excellent execution from the team and even when mistakes happen (long stop for Perez in Spain) they bear no influence on the result. Perez is probably the most underrated driver of recent times and Ocon must be very special indeed to consistently be just behind.

Renault and Williams will struggle to stay close to FI in the championship as they are effectively racing with a single car each and, as proven by Williams in the last two races, it is easy and possibly inevitable to get in trouble from time to time when you have only one car racing. For me Palmer’s performances so far have been at least as disappointing if not even more than Stroll’s. In his second season, he ought to be closer to Hulk. Vandoorne has not exactly proven the hype either but let’s give him benefit of doubt on basis that it’s difficult to learn anything useful in a car with so many problems as his.

12

@ DC…whilst i’m sure that Palmer is a decent driver i somehow feel as though he’s out of his depth. He is unimpressive and there is something in his demeanour that i find hard to come to grips with. When he’s interviewed he always seems to be gazing off into the distance looking for divine insight. That may be harsh but everytime i see him do it i think…what’s he doing here? Maybe he’s asking himself the very same question.

13

There are a number of drivers on the grid who don’t really deserve to be there.

Stroll, Palmer, Ericsson, Magnussen, Kvyat and maybe Vandoorne (?).

Unfortunately for a lot of these drivers, the vertical learning curve displayed by Max last year has set an impossible high standard for everyone. Wtih Stoff there are still some question marks since the car is very unreliable. But you have to question when Fernando qualifies 7th while Stoff is 19th.

Stroll, Palmer, Kvyat and Magnussen are the ones you know will never set the stage on fire so better get someone else in those seats. Unfortunately in Willams case, Stroll Snr provides a lot of their team funding so it’s not like they have any choices.

14

Off topic question;

Was Bernie serious when I heard Brundle talk to him about acquiring Force India and rebranding them as Brabham?

15

No smoke without fire, as they say. Bernie could easily afford to buy a majority shareholding, and it might make thing easier for VJ. Not sure about the Brabham name though.

16

As I have mentioned below in my reply to Kenneth Cashpoor, Bernie seemed a rather forlorn and lonely individual when seen on the grid in Barcelona so maybe its just an attention seeking effort on his part.
Would be nice though to see if its merely talk or whether there is any substance to it.

17

@ Sars…let’s hope so. I heard that as well and thought, what a great idea. However i doubt whether Mallya will get anywhere near what he’s apparently asking….US$250M seems like disneyland to me.

18

I think it could be a case of Bernie saying these things just to gather the attention. Since he sold his stake to Liberty he’s become more and more yesterdays man and that’s surely something Bernie has never had to deal with, certainly not in the past thirty five years or so anyway.
The fact James hasn’t had anything on it on his site suggests, at this point, its merely noise.
Good idea though if BE supplies the finds for the acquisition, not so if that means he makes waves and friction in the process.

19

@ Sars…Yes, he must wonder what to do with himself these days!!!! I’d be pretty certain that Bernie can always find ways and means to remain active. Having a charming young wife to entertain would keep him on his toes. No matter what people think about him he certainly has a level of drive and knowledge that if channelled correctly could be of great assistance to a team seeking to advance further up the ladder. I have a great deal of respect for BE based mainly on what he has achieved over his lifetime. He may have been divisive, single minded and overly protective of his domain to the detriment of progress….but a canny businessman above all. People are heaping praise on Liberty for their supposed relaxed approach to many things but does that improve the racing? I think not, as yet anyway. The acid test is when tell us just what they are planning for the future. They need to break the stranglehold currently held by the manufacturers amongst other things and then we may get to see what they are made of. I am not yet ready to endorse Liberty as the ‘knights on white chargers’ as i prefer to see the offer first. We shouldn’t have to wait for another three years for that to happen.

20

And this is a surprise to anyway. Williams have the worst line up on the grid, and a chassis that is getting worse by the year. They seem to going back to the bad old days of 2012 chassis wise.

Bluntly, Massa is past it and Stroll doesn’t have it. To think Clare Williams chose these two while Vergne, Algesuari, Kobayashi et al are on the sidelines.

21

How much does a new chassis cost? I can see Stroll needing a few car rebuilds at Monaco. He’ll either keep hitting the barriers trying to find speed or go so slow avoiding them that he’ll be at the back of the grid. At what point does the cost of car repairs and lost championship points erase daddy’s money? As a public listed company Williams have to publish their finances but I’m not sure to the level we could see how much Stroll costs?

Yes, he’s a rookie and still learning but I think it’s clear by now he just doesn’t have enough talent for F1. I seriously doubt he’ll ever win a race (barring extreme circumstances) never mind be able to compete for world championships. All rookies make mistakes when they’re learning but it’s always obvious very quickly when they have the talent to make it.

22

So great to see a small team such as force India performing a fair way above their weight. They have two very capable drivers and obviously a fine team of engineers to provide them with 2 solid cars. I hope that sponsors will recognize that and give them the means to go hunting Red Bull. Perez is by now a proven asset to any team that will employ him and Ocon is surely appearing on a few team principals’ radar. Williams is a very sad story to me. A team with so much history. Hope that their future will prove better for them. Marc

23

williams will improve once paddy lowe is bedded-in and those extra dollars that stroll brings will make a difference. the car looks under done on the aero front and needs more downforce. i think williams should grab alonso for ’18.

24
Craig in Manila

Williams :

They sign one driver who barely deserves to be in the car
They retire then re-sign another driver
They release a perfectly good driver to a competing team
They have money coming in from F1 Heritage payments regardless of results
They have money coming in from Papa Stroll payments regardless of results

There is certainly no particular pressure on them to be competitive and, judging by some of their decisions, it doesn’t even seem that they care if they are or they aren’t.

How long would they tolerate Stroll if he cannot improve ? 5 years ? 10 ?

What’s the plan for 2018 re Massa ? He goes around again ?
Or does Williams seriously think that they can attract a decent driver to replace him ?

25

@ Craig…I should think that having Paddy Lowe as a part owner, albeit a minority shareholder, that he might have a few questions on where the Williams future lies. I followed this team from inception up until Mark Webber left and since then it’s been all downhill. Williams got too big for their boots and they treated their drivers badly. They demonstrated that with Nigel Mansell and again with Mark Webber. They are a mere shadow of their former selves mainly because they made very bad business decisions amongst other things. I have no sympathy for them as a team. They cried poor yet FW sat on a pile estimated at $150+million without putting his hand in his pocket at any stage!. FW did sell his private jet and Patrick sold his helicopter so that was something i suppose but defiinitely not enough. Yes, i would like to see a resurgent Williams for the sake of better and closer racing but i don’t see how they will do it. That’s [F1] life.

26

Williams are as good as Force India, if not better. They are paying the price for signing a rookie who cannot even come close to Massa on pace. I would say signing Susie Wolff would have been a better choice. The Renault PU might be coming good by summer and I think Williams are going to end the season 7th.

27

The irony is that Toto could have afforded to buy her the drive as I noted that on the recent Sunday Times rich list the Wolffs are worth £250 million – Toto is richer than Lewis!

28

Bob Fernly should get a Knighthood. Frank couldn’t even see the value of Newey and let him go.

29

Frank and Patrick have let many world class talents leave their team through the ages, from engineers, designers to drivers. Maybe something they could ‘afford’ through the 80-90ties when they themselves were worldclass and everybody wanted to work for them. Success grows success. They used to promote themselves as a pure racing team, but then they went commercial and that’s a very different animal…

30

Nobody saw Perez, Ocon and Hulkenberg’s race.
I could easily watch the midfield battle of every race again on the F1 off weekends.
But there is no TV camera on them – live.
F1 could edit their race as the camera keeps rolling, recording the midfield cars passing by and – when not – move to in car cameras. Its just not Live on TV.
I only noticed there was a nice 3 car battle there bcs of the time gaps.
Intead, they prefered the local boy Carlitos Sainz vs Magnussen.
Ocon and Wehrlein impressing me a lot.
I wouldn’t be surprised w/ Perez to Ferrari or Hass and Ocon to Williams or any Merc Powered team.

31

You get what you sow and Williams are certainly finding that out this season.
Stroll isn’t merely inexperienced but clearly inept behind the wheel of these cars and Massa is right when he says he’ll struggle at Monaco. We saw Verstappen struggle in his first two races there and considering how much more talent has he has to Stroll in comparison I think he’s a short price to have a DNF.
Which is a shame really as I think they have the fourth best car on the grid. We’ll probably never know for sure as we have an ageing veteran and a kid that should be at every race as a spectator not a driver.

32

Even if the “leaked” F1 money payout distribution by Autosport is to be believed (image attached), I do not see much of a difference between 4th and 6th place in the constructors championship.

A few million yes (even though its complex based on multiple years before.. still Williams does not get any CCB like the 4 top teams, so around 6 millions less they will make?) , but nowhere close to the amount Stroll’s Family is probably pumping in??

Does anyone have a rough idea about how much Money the Strolls are pumping into the team for them to stroll over and drive a racing car for fun? But then I am not sure if he only bought ownership shares and does not add “sponsorship” funds. In which case that 6 million could pinch.

Anyone with much idea?

Also It gets a bit allergic when for two races in a row that martini wave comes along to dull the chance for a closer finish. Seriously when getting lapped, (for whatever reasons they may have ended up so far down) they do not show the basic respect for racing like the traditional back markers do by backing right off so as not to interfere with the lead battle.

They seem to have no sense of drama ! Just taking the joy out of nail biting ends. Kill joys !! 🙂

33
Tornillo Amarillo

Good point, maybe Dad Stroll could pay for the difference between P4 and P Williams really got. Speculations, speculations, free speculations…

I insist a businessman on top of the world won’t pay 18 years of motorsports career for his son, have a business plan for F1 and give up after 2 full races… Media should stop this nonsense.

There are many other interesting topics for the media and fans that deserve be investigated :
– Mercedes consulting to Honda…
– Red Bull giving up or in real crisis
– Ricciardo’s performance
– How to close the gap between the 2 frontrunners and the other teams
– Why Marko speak out about Carlos Sainz’ father

34

Thx @Nomad, Appear that KMag was a very profitable driver then for Renault last year! They paid him less than $1M in salary, while he gave them 20+ times more back in return with the points money he scored for them. Would be interesting to see this break down by driver on the grid!

35

@Cyber – Holy Cow you are right! :O

36

Force India has fourth for the season, I expect. They have overall consistency the teams below them lack. They are banging home double points finishes despite poor mouthing their own package. Williams, Haas, and Renault may (emphasis “may”) have cars ultimately more impressive to the stopwatch, but can’t get both going well at the same time. Haas still has confidence-sapping brake problems. Renault (and thus STR) still doesn’t have the PU at its best spec, and Palmer is still on a steep learning curve. He’ll improve, as will Stroll at Williams, but not enough to overcome the gap to FI this season. I don’t see a lengthy string of double DNFs by FI, and that’s what the others need, along with double points finishes of their own. When FI finishes, they finish in the points, and nothing indicates that they won’t continue to do so.

37

@ Rudy Pyatt…as we all know FI is up for sale by the embattled mallya. I listened to Brundle’s comments to bernie on the grid when he asked him if he was going to buy the team and get together with young Brabham and re launch the team as “Brabham F1’…which as we all know was Bernie’s team back awhile! Sounds good to me and if so at least it would have better finances.

38

@ Rudy Pyatt…Your response just landed in my inbox. You raise an issue that i hadn’t considered. I do think that it would be good for the competition to have another American team on the grid and Penske or Andretti would be great addition. To carry this even further what if the Alonso entry to the Indy 500 was precursor to an American entry into F 1 via the Force India aquisition, Alonso could then take over as lead driver alongside American Rossi as team mate. Sounds like a workable strategy with Ecclestone as the Chairman bringing vast amounts of $$$ and with Brabham as team principal. Could be quite exciting. The new team known and Brabham Penske racing would be a formidable act.

39

Mind you, Kenneth, the team I would most like to see return? BRM… The most impressive F1 car I’ve yet seen in person was the BRM P160 at the 2002 and 2003 historic demo at the USGP. All the V10s in the field for the actual race? Bah. That BRM V12… NOTHING sounded better. Next year, I’ve gotta get to Goodwood!

40

That would be spectacular, with all manner of full-circle irony! It’s a turn-key operation for BE and would keep him in the game.

Mind you, Roger Penske could easily afford it as well, but The Captain wouldn’t do it without a compelling business case. With Liberty/FOG seeking to raise F1’s profile by interacting with other series (only today, Ross Brawn met with MotoGP officials to discuss minimizing calendar conflicts with F1; Alonso’s Indy venture we know about), that could provide an opening for Penske (or Ganassi, Andretti, or Hendrick, to name three other pedigree American teams) to join the grid.

I guess it depends on what kind of bargain Vijay Mallya wants to drive; how badly Bernie wants to stay in the game; and whether or not Liberty wants to encourage new ownership from outside the traditional F1 pirrahna club.

41

As stated numerous times on these pages, FIndia has the best euro-for-euro driver line up on the grid, by a substantial margin, and it is showing, good!
So far, the rookie star of the year 2017 is Ocon; but those who have followed his career, are NOT surprised.
I’m a big fan of Checko, but if I’m Ferrari, I like what I’m seeing in Ocon, if I want to change one of my drivers.
I expect a late season spec-B at Williams, reflecting new developmental philosophy of Paddy, as platform moving forward for 2018.

42
Tornillo Amarillo

WILL WILLIAMS RECOVER FROM SPANISH WOES?

Look Editor, with 80 points as a Team last year you could get P5 in the WDC. Williams was P5, and then McLaren P6 with 76 points.
So:
Massa got already 18 points in 2017 in 5 races.
What does he need to get 62 more points in the next 15 races?
Average finishing P7 (6 points) in 10 races. No need to score in 5 of the remaining races.
Kid Lance (2 fans only in this website) could score the last 2 points 🙂 (1 point per fan).

Go Williams and Lance!

43

HAHA Every time i read Tornillo’s undying support for his rookie favorite underdog, i regret posting my comments further above raving and ranting that the pinnacle of motor sport should have better prepared drivers. But I stand by it, its not good for the image.

@Tornillo.. who is the other fan ? 😀

44
Tornillo Amarillo

Someone shy 🙂

45
Tornillo Amarillo

James, Lance has just completed 2 races!
He has plenty of time, I would say 2 years, money is not the problem. There would be some options there.
Lance is just learning, so expect he gets experience, not points right away to fight in the midfield with PEREZ, HULK, SAINZ, ALONSO… it sounds ridiculous, or to match Massa. Maybe in few races he could get P10 or P9, like Ocon got before.

I would be more worry about Palmer, Kvyat, Ericsson, Kmag, Vandoorne, even Grosjean…

The missing point is that the Midfield is EXTENDED to the bottom of the grid, there are not 4 teams really there, but now with Sauber up there and every team sometimes closing times, you get 7 midfield teams!
It’s not Lance that could win this fight now, isn’t it?

46

These new cars look far beyond Lance’s pay grade, like a jockey that can’t hang on to his horse. And it’s basic skills like slowing the car down.

47
Tornillo Amarillo

What if a team like Williams offer you a seat to learn? You have earned the Super license, remember, you are allow to drive, there is money involved…
Does someone think that Williams didn’t know or wasn’t smart enough when hiring kid Lance?
And please, there are only 10 teams in F1, I don’t think Williams is blocking other “talented” driver out there, he bought his seat, everybody has to live with what other people do…
I think the real point is that maybe we need AT LEAST 3 more teams (6 more drivers) in F1, doesn’t it?

48

There was a time when a driver still ‘learning’ this far into a season would already be out on his ear…

I actually think Massa has been driving relatively well – this weekend excepted – but there is a chasm of performance between the two, when Williams is historically capable of producing equipment to a similar standard.

Usually a rookie driver has the speed and makes mistakes – which is OK, because the speed is there and the mistakes can be minimised with experience. However when you have a driver that has no speed and no mistakes, well … Webber was right when he said that F1 isn’t a finishing school.

49

I admire the way Force India go racing. They always get the best drivers they can afford, rather than who can bring the biggest briefcase of cash, and it shows in the results. Hulkenberg has shown once and for all just how ordinary Palmer is, and Williams have made a massive blunder in accepting Stroll senior’s money. I don’t see either Renault or Williams beating Force India this season. It’s just too much for Hulk and Massa to do on their own. Toro Rosso really should be up there with FI, but their season has been not so good so far. I’d love to see Sainz replace Palmer by the end of this year.

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