Sahara Force India, who have been having a strong Formula One season and are comfortably parked at 5th position on the constructors’ grid, have good news ahead of this weekend’s Singapore Grand Prix.
Team boss Vijay Mallya has said that the cars used by both Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez will see upgrades, although no details were immediately available on whether these were in regard to speed, power or reliability. The team introduced the B-spec of the VJM08 at the British Grand Prix at Silverstone and saw an almost instantaneous improvement, with both drivers finishing in the points – Hulkenberg in 7th and Perez in 9th.
The team saw a disastrous Hungarian Grand Prix, however, with both drivers retiring; while Perez had brake issues, Hulkenberg suffered a dramatic front wing failure which caused him to fly into the tyre wall, putting an end to his race. Perez had had trouble earlier in the week as well, when a dramatic crash saw his car crash into the wall after his front right wheel appeared to go underneath the car entirely.
An investigation later showed a rear suspension failure had sent him crashing, and first practice had then been red-flagged, with drivers and personnel especially on edge following the very recent death of young talent Jules Bianchi. The 25-year-old Frenchman had been tipped for a Ferrari seat before his tragic 2015 death, following 9 months in a coma from injuries sustained in an accident at the 2014 Japanese Grand Prix.
Most recently at the Italian Grand Prix, the team again saw a double points finish with Perez and Hulkenberg in 6th and 7th respectively. The Autodromo Nazionale Monza is the highest-speed track on the circuit, and both drivers performed well on the speed trap as well.
Force India have had success on both high-speed tracks this year – Perez looked set for a podium spot at the Belgian Grand Prix at the high-speed Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps, and although this evaded him, he finished the race in a high 5th spot.
While the earlier version of the VJM08’s b-spec had seen ‘nostrils’ and a higher nose for improved airflow, the team have not yet revealed what changes have been made ahead of this weekend’s grand prix, which is one of the only two entirely night races on the calendar, and one of only 4 run anti-clockwise.
The team are currently 5th in the constructors’ standings behind Red Bull, who have a 50-point lead over them. Their closest competitors are now Lotus, who at 50 are only 13 points behind them. Considering both teams are running on improved Mercedes power units it will be a tough battle for 5th, and one that owner Vijay Mallya has said he is aware of.
"As I've been saying for a while, the midfield fight for fifth place in the championship is likely to go down to the wire," he told media. "It was important to score good points in Monza to reclaim fifth place, but with seven races still to go we cannot afford to ease up.”
He also said that upgrades to the unit would be constant, and that the “development of the VJM08 will continue.”
Reigning champion Lewis Hamilton, who cemented his lead in the drivers’ standings with a win at Monza that was marred by controversy, is the reigning champion at the Singapore Grand Prix, having won the race last year. It was his second win at the venue as he has previously won in 2009, then driving for McLaren-Mercedes.