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Are Force India back in action?


We examine Force India F1's B-spec car and what the second half of the F1 season has in store for the team.

Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez of Force India 

With the Belgian Grand Prix coming up this weekend, all the teams and drivers will be back in action with their batteries recharged after a month long break. The performance of the Force India in the first half of this Formula One season has been mediocre compared to their show in the first half of 2014.

The VJM08 B-spec was introduced at Silverstone ahead of the British Grand Prix, and more upgrades are lined for the second half of the 2015 F1 season. 

Will they give Force India a big boost and help the team surprise everyone with a much-needed podium?

Delays, delays

 Force India initially delayed the development of the 2015 car at the beginning after shifting testing to one of the most advanced wind tunnels in Cologne, Germany. Also, delays in the arrival of some components from the sponsor’s side also played a part. As a result, the team brought an under-developed and under-performing car to race in 2015 complying with new rules. They then entered into the development of VJM08’s B-spec in full swing.

     Since there are no big rule changes to 2016 season on the technical side, the time and money spent by all the teams this year on the development will not be fruitless. But the time to test new upgrades will be very less as the testing days have been reduced for 2016. Teams can extensively use the available time this year to introduce new parts and collect some data. Fewer testing days in 2016 would hurt teams in terms of development, so the testing at the wind tunnel and use of CFD in the time available will make the difference next year. 

The VJM08 B-Spec

     Force India’s technical director Andrew Green has said that some more new parts for the B-spec will be introduced in the second half. This means that the development has not stopped yet. The team now have more sponsors, thanks to the arrival of Sergio Perez before the start of 2014 season. They have spent more time on R&D in these two years than in their entire history thanks to a significantly improved financial situation.

    The B-spec VJM08 has a very interesting nose that turned the heads of all the engineers up and down the grid in Austria when they introduced it. The nostrils under the nose of the car influence airflow throughout its floor. The car also has a new floor and an engine cover, as the team has made significant changes in packing the power unit components.

 Drivers have commented that the overall downforce on the vehicle has improved. Now that the car has a very solid baseline, the second half will be much better for the team. 

 The Grands Prix at Silverstone and Hungaroring clearly showed how quick the B-spec is. At Silverstone, the team’s sensational start, their first stint and the double points finish proved that developments are going on in the right direction. In Hungary the cars looked quick, but the mechanical failures made a huge difference. The suspension failure for Sergio in FP1 ruined entire weekend for the team as they had to skip FP2, very important during a race weekend, to study the issue and reduce the risk of losing major parts. Also Nico’s front wing failure on Sunday changed the course of the race and also hampered Sergio’s race, as he had to change his new front wing to the old one. But the team is confident that the failures won’t happen again. 

Second half: Preview    

     After a month’s break, the team and two drivers will ready to go, fully energised for a fresh start. Nico Hulkenberg has enjoyed more success in the second halves of his racing seasons, more than Sergio Perez has in the past. In addition, the Belgian Grand Prix will be the first race where the new start procedures will come into play.

Some cars may get away very slowly as there will now be no communication between the drivers and engineers about clutch bite points; the drivers have to set it up for themselves. Can the Force India drivers use the new start procedures to the best of their advantage? Sunday will answer that question.

    Force India have bagged big points in the circuits coming up in the second half in the past. They have said that the tracks would suit the car in the second half more. An upgraded car and a powerful Mercedes engine will be a boost to the confidence of the team and the drivers, to move up in the Championship. The team now sits at 5th in the Constructors Championship with 39 points, with Red Bull just ahead with 96 and Lotus breathing down their neck with 35.

     The two mechanical failures for Force India, and Red Bull’s impressive double podium finish in Hungary made a big difference. The team has Red Bull in their sight and it will be an uphill battle if they intend to finish 4th. 

The upcoming two races will give a slight edge to Force India compared to other midfield teams. Their efficient Mercedes power units will stand them in good stead, especially at the high-speed circuits of Spa and Monza. 

The team has two great talents in Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg and a car that performs a lot better than its old A-spec car. It can surely be a surprise package in the second half and a finish on the coveted podium, if they can improve their poor qualifying form and score points on a consistent basis. 

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