2016: Force India break the glass ceiling

GP EUROPA F1/2016 – BAKU (AZERBAIJAN) 19/06/2016
© FOTO STUDIO COLOMBO PER PIRELLI MEDIA (© COPYRIGHT FREE)

2016 is a year that will be associated with Nico Rosberg’s sole World Championship title after ten years in Formula One.

But his was far from the only underdog success story on the grid, as Force India took fourth in the World Constructors’ Championship courtesy of strong results including two podiums.

The pairing of Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez had been a successful one during the previous two seasons, and it was no surprise to see the two regularly upsetting more established teams such as Williams and McLaren.

And yet it was to be a slow start for the Silverstone team as Hulkenberg’s seventh place in Australia was the only points finish either driver had for the first three races, while Perez got off the mark with ninth in Russia ahead of the unveiling of their new car in Europe.

Hulkenberg was to retire in Spain but in the hands of Perez the F1 paddock saw the step forward made by the team as he took seventh at the downforce-heavy Circuit de Catalunya. That preceded the best weekend of their season in Monaco.

After qualifying fifth and eighth respectively, Hulkenberg and Perez were both keen to use the difficult track conditions to their advantage on raceday. With Nico Rosberg struggling from the start, Perez made use of a good strategy and excellent wet-weather pace to take a comfortable third, while Hulkenberg’s persistence paid off in his pursuit of sixth from Rosberg, which he took on the final lap.

It was on to Canada next where eighth and tenth for Hulkenberg and Perez kept the points ticking over, while the team took their second podium in Azerbaijan. Perez was once again there to take advantage of a poor race for Lewis Hamilton and Red Bull to finish third behind Rosberg and Sebastian Vettel, with

Hulkenberg ninth after poor luck early on. Perez had qualified second only to be hit with a gearbox penalty.

A poor weekend in Austria was followed by another excellent team performance in the rain at the British Grand Prix, a mere stone’s throw from their base. They took advantage of Williams woe to finish sixth and seventh, while Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa failed to trouble the scorers. The battle was on.

MELBOURNE (AUSTRALIA) – 20/3/16
© FOTO STUDIO COLOMBO PER PIRELLI MEDIA (© COPYRIGHT FREE)

Neither team scored heavily in Hungary as Bottas took ninth ahead of Hulkenberg in tenth, and more solid scoring was to follow for Force India in Germany as Hulkenberg came home seventh while his teammate salvaged tenth, again outscoring Williams.

VJ Mallya’s men had another spectacular weekend in Spa, scene of their sole pole position and first podium at the 2009 Belgian Grand Prix. Perez finished an excellent fourth, just ahead of his teammate. The European season drew to a close with another five points at the Italian Grand Prix.

Eighth place for Perez in Singapore started the flyaway rounds well for Force India, and sixth for the Mexican in Malaysia enhanced his bid for seventh place, while Hulkenberg backed him up well in eighth.

The Japanese Grand Prix is famous for Hulkenberg’s cheeky “see you later” message to Bottas after overtaking him at the final chicane at Suzuka, and it really was a case of waving goodbye to Williams. Perez and Hulkenberg in seventh and eighth finished ahead of both Bottas and Massa as the battle for fourth began to swing decisively in their favour.

Hulkenberg retired after an early collision with Bottas in America, while Massa was on for fifth place until Alonso’s aggressive move gave him a puncture. He finished seventh, just ahead of Perez in eighth. Fourth was there for the taking for Force India.

Another solid weekend at Perez’ home Grand Prix in Mexico saw Hulkenberg take seventh and Perez tenth, before Perez almost mounted the podium once again at a soaking Brazilian Grand Prix as Hulkenberg again claimed seventh.

Bottas’ retirement in Abu Dhabi when Williams would have needed a huge points advantage over Force India meant that the battle for fourth place was won. Still, seventh and eighth for Perez and Hulkenberg brought about the end of 2016 in a fitting way, the team consistently scoring well.

2016 was unquestionably the strongest season in Force India’s history, with a previous best result of fifth in the Constructors’ in 2015. This was the most successful season for the Silverstone factory since Heinz-Harald Frentzen’s 1999 title challenge.

Perez took seventh in World Drivers’ Championship with 101 points and was well backed up by Hulkenberg, who was ninth with 72.

The Mexican’s scoring streak lasted 11 races through to the end of the season and only came to an end at the recent Monaco Grand Prix, and with the budget of the

bigger teams, Force India will be hard pressed to beat 2016.

Jack Prentice @JPrentice8

Images courtesy of Pirelli

Sahara Force India Week: The Force of India

 

Giancarlo Fisichella (ITA) Force India F1 celebrates on the podium.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 12, Belgian Grand Prix, Race, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Sunday 30 August 2009. courtesy of Sahara Force India F1 Team

Once upon a time in India, a great country where you can find or loose yourself. Now, there is Force India, an F1 team that since 2008 has always surprised us. And in this special team was a special driver, the gladiator Giancarlo Fisichella.

The Roman driver began his F1 adventure in 1995 as a tester for Minardi and taking part in some races of the 1996 season without scoring points. In 1997, with a decent car, Jordan allowed Giancarlo to score 20 points with some great races, podiums and fastest laps, ending the season in eighth place in the final standing.

After four good seasons in Benetton, from 1998 to 2001, the Italian driver returned to Jordan, where in 2003 claimed his first win of his career in a thrilling race at the circuit of Interlagos. He could celebrate the win only 5 days later, because of an error of timing that gave the victory to Raikkonen. After passing a season at Sauber, Giancarlo began a great period of his career signing for the winning team Renault, where he didn’t have an easy life sharing the box with Fernando Alonso. Anyway he was able to win some good races and score many points both in 2005 and in 2006. But Fernando Alonso was the man in that era, so the Spaniard won both the championships and Fisichella had to be content with minor results in the final standing. In 2007, Renault lost Fernando Alonso to McLaren, and with him a lot of performance, so Fisichella could only score 21 points without wins or podiums.

And finally we arrive to the first season in Force India, 2008, where Giancarlo couldn’t score points because of a lack of reliability with the VJM01, even using a Ferrari engine. But in 2009, after a troubled start to the season without any points, in the Belgian grand prix he grabbed a fantastic pole position and a second place in the race. It was epic! In fact, after Massa’s accident in Hungary, Ferrari, to replace the Brazilian, choose Giancarlo for the remaining races of the season. And there happened the paradox! Maybe Ferrari didn’t suit him well, maybe Ferrari had a deep technical crisis, but Fisichella couldn’t reach good results with Maranello squad.

That’s the life: often it’s not gold what you see shining.

Massimo Trapanese, F1 correspondent

From the Jordan wonder years to the Force India renaissance

 

Photo courtesy of Rick Dikema

The factory at Silverstone that Force India call home has been under many guises and names since privateer Eddie Jordan entered Formula One back in 1991. What was then an operation to blood younger drivers such as Michael and Ralf Schumacher, Eddie Irvine and Rubens Barrichello has undergone no fewer than three identity changes since the Midland Group bought Jordan back in 2005. Since then, Midland, Spyker and finally Force India have been perennial underdogs in the Formula One paddock.

Their first season yielded thirteen points through the efforts of no less than five drivers in an era where only the top six finishers scored points. Alongside Andrea De Cesaris’ nine points, Roberto Moreno, Michael Schumacher and Alessandro Zanardi stood in for the jailed Belgian Bertrand Gachot. 1992 was less successful with the only point scored by Stefano Modena, while 1993 was little better amid another high turnover of drivers including Irvine, Barrichello, Thierry Boutsen, Ivan Capelli, Marco Apicella and Emmanuele Naspetti. If those two years were troublesome, 1994 marked a rise to the midfield that would last until 2003. De Cesaris, Barrichello and Irvine would score between them 28 points and see the team fifth, with a further 21 scored in 1995. Irvine would leave for Ferrari in 1996 and be replaced by a much calmer Brit in Martin Brundle. Both he and Barrichello almost graced the podium as Jordan took three fourth place finishes in a more consistent year.

Photo courtesy of Crisp And Clean/ Stuart Seeger

1997 would see the team visit the podium more often with Ralf Schumacher and Giancarlo Fisichella, before a memorable 1998 in which Damon Hill took his last and Jordan’s first victory in a chaotic Belgian Grand Prix, with Ralf second as part of a 1-2 finish. 1999 was their most successful year as Heinz-Harald Frentzen sustained the unlikeliest of title challenges with two wins. The German remained in contention until the penultimate round of a championship won by Mika Hakkinen, before 17 points and sixth saw them fall back to earth with a bump in 2000. That marked the start of a decline in fortunes as 2001 saw little improvement to fifth despite often being on the pace, while 2002 yielded just nine points from rookie Takuma Sato and the returning Fisichella. For 2003 Jordan could only finish ninth ahead of Minardi despite a famous win for Fisichella at the Brazilian Grand Prix. The following season, despite regularly fighting with Minardi to avoid the wooden spoon, Nick Heidfeld and Timo Glock notched five points as Jordan sold the team at the end of the year.

2005 was the final season under the Jordan name, and all points bar the one that rookie Tiago Monteiro scored for eighth at the Belgian Grand Prix were taken from the farcical US Grand Prix, where 3rd and 4th for Monteiro and Narain Karthikeyan were enough to see them ahead of Minardi once again in a race where only six cars took to the start. 2006 saw a season-long rebrand as Midland F1, but the change in name failed to bring about a change in fortunes. Monteiro and Christijan Albers rarely looked like troubling the scorers as the team finished tenth – just ahead of Super Aguri. Dutch sportscar maker Spyker bought the team during 2006 and blooded Albers alongside German rookie Adrian Sutil for 2007. Albers was fired after the British Grand Prix while Markus Winkelhock led in his first ever race at the German Grand Prix, before fading and retiring. Sutil scored the team’s only point with eighth at in Japan.

Photo courtesy of V.Charpiat

Another season saw another owner with ambitious Indian businessman VJ Mallya, but 2008 was a struggle with Giancarlo Fisichella taking the team’s only top 10 finish in Spain. The following year the team moved up to ninth in Constructors’ championship after a memorable weekend at the Belgian Grand Prix saw Fisichella finish second to Kimi Raikkonen after pole position the day before.

2010 marked the start of a more consistent era for the team. Sutil and Vitantonio Liuzzi were regulars in the points and Sutil claimed 11th in the final standings with a best result of fifth in Malaysia. Scotsman Paul Di Resta replaced Liuzzi in 2011 for another consistent season for the team. Sutil moved up to ninth while Di Resta’s rookie season saw him 13th and in the points eight times, with solid rather than spectacular results ensuring the team finished seventh.In 2012 the team challenged for podium positions on a regular basis in one of the most open seasons in recent memory. Nico Hulkenberg replaced Sutil, dropped after an assault charge, and outpointed his British teammate on his way to 11th. Meanwhile, Di Resta was 14th despite both men finishing fourth in Belgium and Singapore respectively.

(L to R): Giancarlo Fisichella (ITA) Force India F1, Michiel Mol (NED), Vijay Mallya (IND), Jan Mol (NED), Adrian Sutil (GER) Force India F1 and Vitantonio Liuzzi (ITA) Force India F1.
Force India F1 Team Launch, Mumbai, India, Thursday 7 February 2008. Courtesy of Force India F1 Team

Hulkenberg joined Sauber in 2013, Sutil returning after serving his punishment for assault. He was considerably outperformed by Di Resta as the duo finished 12th and 13th following a more frustrating season for the team. Both drivers were dropped at the end of the season in favour of Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez. 2014 marked an upturn in fortunes for the team as a more engine reliant formula played into their hands. Hulkenberg’s consistency meant that he only finished outside of the points four times, while Perez took a podium in the famous Bahrain Grand Prix with third place. The team remained sixth, but the improvements were obvious.

The upward curve continued in 2015 and the team retained the previous year’s pairing. Perez took another podium with third in Russia, and Hulkenberg was also consistent despite a rocky start to the season. Force India moved up to fifth in the final standings. 2016 was the team’s best ever season – and the best season from the Silverstone factory since 1999. Podiums still eluded Hulkenberg as he had to settle for fourth in Belgium once again, although the German still enjoyed another solid season before moving to Renault for 2017. Perez twice visited the podium in Azerbaijan and Monaco on his way to seventh in the Drivers’ standings. Force India beat Williams to fourth – only behind the big three of Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari in the final reckoning.

Esteban Ocon (FRA) Sahara Force India F1 VJM10 on the grid.
Spanish Grand Prix, Sunday 14th May 2017. Barcelona, Spain. Courtesy of Force India F1 Team

In its various identities, the team now known as Force India have provided many a feel good story. From the title challenge of 1999 with Heinz-Harald Frentzen to mixing with the big boys on a small budget during this current decade. With Perez and Esteban Ocon, Force India have again looked good in 2017 – scoring with both cars in each of the first five races. You wouldn’t bet against them punching above their weight once more.

Jack Prentice

Sergio Perez, the Mexican Podium Master

Sergio Perez (MEX) Sahara Force India F1 celebrates his third position with the team.
Monaco Grand Prix, Sunday 29th May 2016. Monte Carlo, Monaco. courtesy of Force India F1 Team

 

This week is dedicated to Sahara Force India, PitCrew’s members wrote several articles related to Force India’s history and success and now it’s the time for me to share my article with you. Enjoy!

Sahara Force India’s first entry in Formula One, with this name, was in 2008 at the Australian Grand Prix, it was not the best weekend for the team. Giancarlo Fisichella started the race from the 16th place, while Adrian started from the pit lane because he had to change his chassis. Both drivers retired, Sutil had issues with his hydraulics and Fisichella retired after a collision. A bad start doesn’t mean anything. From 2008 since today, Force India has scored more than 850 points they have secured one pole position, five fastest laps and five podiums. The first fastest lap was set by Adrian Sutil at the Italian Grand Prix in 2009, the German finished fourth in that race and scored points for the second consecutive time.

One of the best moments in team’s history was in 2009, when Giancarlo Fisichella finished second in the Belgian Grand Prix and Force India celebrated their first podium finish in their history. The Italian was the first driver who finished on the podium for the team, but another driver holds the record of the most podium finishes for Sahara Force India. He is known as Checo, comes from Mexico and has finished four times on the podium, all of them in the third place.

Bahrain 2014, Sergio Perez qualified fifth, but moved one place higher because Daniel Ricciardo dropped from third to 13th as he received a ten-place grid penalty for an unsafe pit release in Malaysia. Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg had their own battle for the first place, whilst Felipe Massa was trying to defend the third place from Sergio Perez. The Mexican failed to pass Massa on his first attempt, but on the next lap he overtook the Brazilian driver and took the third position. Checo, finished third behind the two Mercedes and followed by Daniel Ricciardo. Nico Hulkenberg, Perez’s team-mate, finished fifth at that race, behind Daniel Ricciardo.

CANADIAN GRAND PRIX F1/2012 – MONTREAL 10/06/2012 – ROMAIN GROSJEAN – MARTIN WHITMARSH – LEWIS HAMILTON – SERGIO PEREZ. Courtesy of Pirelli

 

One year later, in Russia, Perez repeated his success and scored another podium for Force India. This time he has finished behind Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel. Despite that he qualified seventh behind his team-mate he took advantage of a collision between Hulkenberg, Verstappen and Ericsson on the first laps of the race and also the fact that the safety car was deployed two times, helped him to move up to the third place after an early pit-stop. After a thrilling race, the Mexican celebrated Force India’s third podium in their Formula 1 history. Last year, Perez decided to go one step further with the podiums and finished two times on the podium in the same season.

In Monaco he set the eighth fastest lap during the qualification session, but moved up to seventh because Kimi Raikkonen received a five-place grid penalty for a gearbox change and dropped from sixth to eleventh. The race started behind the safety car, because the track was wet, that was beneficial for Force India, which after a good strategy managed to secure the third place for Perez. Perez benefited during the second round of stops, whilst many teams were confused and didn’t know when to switch from intermediates to slicks, Force India took the right decision and scored another podium. Hamilton was the winner of the 2016 Monaco Grand Prix, followed by Daniel Ricciardo and Sergio Perez.

Sergio Perez (MEX) Sahara Force India F1 celebrates his third position in parc ferme.
European Grand Prix, Sunday 19th June 2016. Baku City Circuit, Azerbaijan. Courtesy of Force India F1 Team

The second podium, in 2016, was celebrated in Baku, also known as the European Grand Prix. The odds were not with Perez, as he was demoted to seventh, because his mechanics had to replace his gearbox after a small crash into the barriers in turn 15 during the final practise session. The Mexican qualified second, but started the race from the seventh place. At the start of the race, Sergio gained two positions and moved up to fifth, on the seventeenth lap Force India called Perez into the pits, a move which helped him to pass Hamilton. During the final laps of the race, Raikkonen got a five-second time penalty for crossing the pit exit line, so Perez, who was behind him, didn’t have to pass him for the third place, but the Mexican made his move on the final lap and passed Raikkonen. This was Force India’s last podium and Perez’s fourth podium with the same team.

Last season was Force India’s best season in Formula One, Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez collected 173 points combined and the team finished fourth in the constructors’ championship behind Ferrari and ahead of Williams. So far in 2017, Force India has not managed to finish on the podium, but they have scored 53 points they are fourth and just 44 points behind Red Bull Racing. It is a very promising season for the ‘pink panthers’ and I am sure that they will finish on soon as they are very competitive so far.

Victor Archakis F1 Editor

Sahara Force India Week: Ten Years and Counting

Throughout its decade in Formula One, the Force India story has been played out by a cast of rookie drivers, rising stars and seasoned race winners, in cars ranging from back row starters to polesitters to podium finishers. As part of our Sahara Force India Week, we’ve taken a quick look back through the yearbooks at the Silverstone team to see how they’ve grown since their debut in 2008.

Adrian Sutil (GER) Force India F1 VJM01
Formula One World Championship, Rd16, Japanese Grand Prix, Practice Day, Fuji Speedway, Japan, Friday 10 October 2008. Courtesy of Sahara Force India F1 Team

VJM01: Adrian Sutil and Giancarlo Fisichella

With little more than an updated version of the 2007 Spyker F8-VIIB at their disposal, the chances for Adrian Sutil and ex-Renault signee Giancarlo Fisichella to put Force India’s maiden challenger into the points were slim at best.

Nevertheless, they did come close on several occasions—most notably Sutil running fourth in Monaco—as the team under Vijay Mallya put in place its philosophy of developing strategically and effectively throughout the year. A best finish of tenth for Fisichella in Spain and some promising displays elsewhere made 2008 a good foundation for Force India’s later success.

Giancarlo Fisichella (ITA) Force India F1 VJM02.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 12, Belgian Grand Prix, Race, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Sunday 30 August 2009. Courtesy of Sahara Force India F1 Team

 

VJM02: Adrian Sutil, Giancarlo Fisichella and Vitantonio Liuzzi

Encouraged by its opening campaign, Force India now looked ahead to 2009, like many teams eyeing that season’s aerodynamics overhaul as an opportunity to shuffle up the grid. The team also signalled its intent this season by moving from Ferrari to Mercedes power—and not to mention, changing its 2008 Kingfisher livery to a striking new Indian flag-inspired design.

Of course, Force India’s ’09 season will always be remembered for Fisichella’s surprise pole and podium at Spa. But with points also and a fastest lap for Sutil at Monza and reliability greatly improved, this was also the year Force India started to establish itself as a true midfield contender.

Vitantonio Liuzzi (ITA) Force India F1 VJM03.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 18, Brazilian Grand Prix, Race, Interlagos, Sao Paulo, Brazil, Sunday 7 November 2010. Courtesy of Sahara Force India F1 Team

 

VJM03: Adrian Sutil and Vitantonio Liuzzi

For 2010 Force India retained Sutil and resigned Vitantonio Liuzzi, who drove for them at the end of 2009 following Fisichella’s mid-season call-up to Ferrari. The season started well with points for Liuzzi in the opening two rounds and a string of six top ten finishes for Sutil in the European season; the team also recorded its first double points finish in Monaco.

Results tailed off towards the end of the season with Liuzzi taking the team’s final points of the year in Korea with sixth, but 68 points on the board and a best-ever constructors’ finish of seventh was still a huge step forward for a team still in its infancy.

Adrian Sutil (GER) Force India F1 VJM04.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 13, Italian Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Monza, Italy, Saturday 10 September 2011. Courtesy of Sahara Force India F1 Team

 

VJM04: Adrian Sutil and Paul di Resta

2011 saw a number of changes at Force India. Following the departure of James Key the previous year, the VJM04 was the first of the team’s cars to be designed by current technical director Andrew Green—it was also the first to be driven by Britain’s Paul di Resta, who was promoted from his reserve role to replace Vitantonio Liuzzi.

Initially, the new-look team yielded mixed results: there were points for Sutil and di Resta in the opening race in Melbourne, but further top ten appearances were sparse throughout the long European stretch. However, performances improved when F1 took to its Asian leg, and a string of points finishes in the final rounds—including in the team’s inaugural home race in India—meant that the Silverstone squad finished 2011 in sixth place overall, just five points shy of fifth-best Lotus-Renault.

Nico Hulkenberg (GER) Sahara Force India F1 VJM05.
Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Saturday 3rd November 2012. Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, UAE. Courtesy of Sahara Force India F1 Team

VJM05: Paul di Resta and Nico Hülkenberg

The build-up to Force India’s 2012 season was dominated by Adrian Sutil’s Shanghai assault trial, and by the team’s decision to replace him with their reserve driver Nico Hülkenberg—this was also the year that Jules Bianchi acted as the team’s test and reserve driver.

Unfortunately Force India never managed to match the podium success of midfield rivals Sauber, Lotus and Mercedes in 2012, and ultimately slipped to seventh in the constructors’ standings. But that’s not to say it wasn’t still a successful year for the team: particular highlights included Hülkenberg, in only his second season racing, finishing in fourth place in Belgium and leading the race in Brazil for almost thirty laps before coming home in fifth.

Paul di Resta (GBR) Sahara Force India VJM06.
Korean Grand Prix, Friday 4th October 2013. Yeongam, South Korea. Courtesy of Sahara Force India F1 Team

VJM06: Paul di Resta and Adrian Sutil

For 2013, Hülkenberg moved across to Sauber, freeing up a seat for Adrian Sutil’s return to the team. His and di Resta’s car for the season was the VJM06, which had ditched the “platypus” nose of the previous year as part of a complete chassis redesign, aimed at overcoming Force India’s slight drop in form in 2012.

Suffice to say, it worked—finishing seventh and eighth respectively, Sutil and di Resta gave the team its best start to a season yet in Melbourne, and the VJM06 went on to score points in every round bar one between Australia and Great Britain. More points later in the season, including two double hauls in India and Abu Dhabi, allowed Force India to retake sixth in the constructors’ with a comfortable twenty-point gap over Sauber.

Sergio Perez (MEX) Sahara Force India F1 VJM07.
Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Sunday 23rd November 2014. Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, UAE. Courtesy of Sahara Force India F1 Team

VJM07: Nico Hülkenberg and Sergio Pérez

2014 saw Force India embrace F1’s new turbo era with some changes of its own: having replaced Sutil and di Resta with the returning Hülkenberg and new signing Sergio Pérez, the team also exchanged its longstanding white livery for a darker, more aggressive look.

As with many of its long-nosed rivals the VJM07 was not the most visually-pleasing interpretation of the 2014 chassis regulations—but it was competitive nonetheless. Getting off the ground with a double points haul in Melbourne, the team went on to record a total of 27 top ten finishes across the season, including a podium for Pérez in Bahrain and a run of ten races in the points for Hülkenberg, that culminated in Force India’s best campaign to date.

Nico Hulkenberg (GER) Sahara Force India F1 VJM08.
Brazilian Grand Prix, Sunday 15th November 2015. Sao Paulo, Brazil. Courtesy of Sahara Force India F1 Team

VJM08/ VJM08B: Nico Hülkenberg and Sergio Pérez

Having scored a team-best 155 championship points in 2014, expectations were high for the following year. But with numerous R&D delays throughout the winter holding back the development of the VJM08, Hülkenberg and Pérez began the season lacking the downforce needed to fight for more than the few points they scored in the opening rounds.

But at the British Grand Prix, Force India introduced a B-spec VJM08, complete with distinctive “cobra” nose, and was immediately rewarded with a double points finish in the race. More points came in all but one of the remaining rounds as Pérez especially took to the new car, dicing with Lewis Hamilton for the lead in Belgium and taking his second podium for the team with third in Russia—the end result being Force India improving yet again to end 2015 as the fifth-best team overall.

Sergio Perez (MEX) Sahara Force India F1 VJM09.
European Grand Prix, Sunday 19th June 2016. Baku City Circuit, Azerbaijan. Courtesy of Sahara Force India F1 Team

VJM09: Nico Hülkenberg and Sergio Pérez

Like most of the 2016 grid, Force India’s VJM09 was little more than an evolution of the previous year’s car, as the team turned its focus ahead to the major rules changes coming in 2017.

But given how competitive the VJM08B was at the end of 2015, the team was not hurt by sticking with the design. The car was especially strong during the European leg, where Pérez hustled his way to a brace of third places in Monaco and Baku, and its combined speed and reliability led to double points finishes in every race bar two between Germany and the end of the season. After the final round in Abu Dhabi, Hülkenberg and Pérez had gathered a monumental 173 points for Force India, more than enough to beat Williams to an outstanding fourth in the Constructors’ Championship.

Esteban Ocon (FRA) Sahara Force India F1 VJM10.
Monaco Grand Prix, Sunday 28th May 2017. Monte Carlo, Monaco. Courtesy of Sahara Force India F1 Team

VJM10: Sergio Pérez and Esteban Ocon

With the remarkable success of its most recent campaigns, Force India certainly has a lot to live up to in 2017. But while many expected the team to struggle for resources in the winter development race, they have instead had their strongest start to a season since 2014.

Outfitted with a bold new pink livery, the VJM10-Mercedes has been turning heads with its performance just as much as with its looks. Taking points finishes in five of the six races so far, and missing out on a perfect run only through bad luck in Monaco, Sergio Pérez is currently leading the team’s charge with seventh in the Drivers’ Championship, whilst new signing Esteban Ocon has been delivering solid results for the team right off the bat—his current best being a fifth place in Spain—despite having made only nine F1 starts prior to the season.

With the team currently holding fourth place in the Constructors’ Championship, on almost double the points of next-best Toro Rosso, 2017 already looks set to be another fitting chapter to the extraordinary Force India story.

James Matthews, Deputy Editor

2009 Belgian GP – The big surprise

Giancarlo Fisichella (ITA) Force India F1 VJM02 crosses the line to finish 2nd.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 12, Belgian Grand Prix, Race, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Sunday 30 August 2009. Photo courtesy of Force India F1 Team

The 2009 Belgian Grand Prix was one of those rare races in Formula One where the form book was ripped up and everything was just a little off-beat. Force India had failed to score a point under the current name, and few expected them to change that when the F1 circus rolled into the Ardennes Forest. Spa though had often been the scene against the odds results. Just ask Eddie Jordan, whose Jordan team ran from the very same factory as Force India’s, about 1998.

Championship leader Jenson Button had hit some poor form after sheer dominance from Brawn early in the season and qualified 14th for the race, while his teammate Barrichello was a stronger fourth. The resurgent Red Bulls of Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber were a disappointing eighth and ninth, as Toyota and BMW found form. Not as much, however, as Giancarlo Fisichella and Force India. The popular Italian had driven to 12th in the previous European Grand Prix, so the strong pace shown throughout qualifying to eventually take pole was remarkable to say the least, although Adrian Sutil only managed 11th.

Fisichella led at the start of the race although the KERS powered Kimi Raikkonen’s Ferrari was now behind him, having started from sixth. A Safety Car after a first lap incident involving Romain Grosjean, Jaime Alguersuari, Lewis Hamilton and Button lasted five laps, but Giancarlo was under threat.

On the restart, Raikkonen used his extra boost to glide past Fisichella into the Les Combes chicane, but he far from drove away. Fisichella was able to stick with him, and as they pitted for fuel and tyres on the same lap Raikkonen was just able to stay ahead. Alas, it would be the KERS that Raikkonen used to pass Giancarlo that would ultimately deny the former Renault man the chance to re-pass. Fisichella was clearly the quicker driver and remained under a second behind the Iceman, but Force India were to be denied their first ever win. They did pick up their first ever points, testament to the achievement that second place was for the team.

Fisichella would go on to join Ferrari for the very next Grand Prix to replace Luca Badoer, the Ferrari test driver standing in for the injured Felipe Massa. Force India would replace him with Vitantonio Liuzzi, while Sutil would set the fastest lap and take fourth place at the next Grand Prix in Italy.

The team have never been as close to winning a Grand Prix, although since 2014 have been more regular visitors to the podium in the new turbo era of Formula One.

Jack Prentice

 

#SFIWeek – The Quiz

Formula 1
Sahara Force India Week
#SFIWeek – The Quiz

May 29, 2017

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Would you like to win Sahara Force India and Hype Energy goodies? Just enter our quiz. Email us (TPCOquizes@gmail.com) In the topic write ‘#SFIweek quiz’. The competition ends on Saturday (3rd of June) at 10 PM CET time.

1. In which season did the teams full name become Sahara Force India?
2. How many pole positions have Sahara Force India taken?
3. Where is the team based?
4. For the celebration of which race did Hype prepare a special drink?
5. In what race did Sahara Force India win their first points?
6. How many drivers have taken a part in a race in Sahara Force India colours?
7. Name the last race for the Jordan Team.
8. In September 2009 Fisichella left Sahara Force India. What team tempted him away?
9. In which races in 2016 did Sahara Force India score a podium finish?
10. What other names has the team raced under?

Julia Paradowska