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Force India: a force not to mess with

SAO PAULO, BRAZIL – NOVEMBER 25: Nico Hulkenberg of Germany and Force India leads from Mark Webber of Australia and Red Bull Racing and Felipe Massa of Brazil and Ferrari during the Brazilian Formula One Grand Prix at the Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace on November 25, 2012 in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

While Interlagos showed the world the true grit and determination of Red Bull Racing which enabled them to win the championship even after a spin by Sebastian Vettel at the start of the race, another thing Interlagos displayed was that Force India are not a force to underestimate. While Interlagos saw the battle for the championship between Vettel and Alonso for the top spot, a team some consider to be minnows was surprisingly seen challenging its own engine makers, Mercedes-McLaren.

That team was Force India.

Force India, initially Spyker F1 team, was bought by Indian business tycoon and liquor baron Vijay Mallya in 2008. The team raced under the name of Force India Formula 1 team for the 2008 season. With a Ferrari engine on board, the team was all set to start its first season under the Force India name, with drivers Giancarlo Fisichella, formerly of Renault, and retained Spykar man Adrian Sutil.

But like all initial rides, Force India did not quite get the start they had expected with the new transformations in the team. With 11 out 18 races ending in retirement for Adrian Sutil, and and seven retirements for Giancarlo Fisichella, Force India finished the season with no points in their kitty and were 10th in the constructor’s championship. Their highest finish was a 10th position by Giancarlo Fisichella in the Spanish Grand Prix. Tension surrounded Vijay Mallya, who came to see Force India as not a good investment, given his own business was suffering a tough patch.

But no one has ever seen the future and had someone seen it, he would have definitely placed his bet on Force India, for they were now getting good head starts. Changing its engine to Mercedes, the new car was all set to renew its stakes and increase it bookie value. A nice start to get their first championship points with a 9th finish by Adrian Sutil in the Australian Grand Prix re-energized the Indians for the entire season. With fewer retirements and more points than last season, Force India displayed a spirit like none in the grid.

As we know, hard work always pays off, and so did it for Force India, who claimed their first ever podium finish with a second position by Giancarlo Fisichella in the challenging Spa circuit. Force India thus finished their second season on a high note of 13 points and one step higher in the constructor’s trophy in ninth spot.

SAO PAULO, BRAZIL – NOVEMBER 24: Nico Hulkenberg of Germany and Force India drives during the final practice session prior to qualifying for the Brazilian Formula One Grand Prix at the Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace on November 24, 2012 in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

The 2010 season saw a new car for Force India, the VJM03, which paved the way for Force India’s true power. No more a minnow and no more a team to look down upon, though they could not make any podium finishes this season, they constantly kept their points tally ticking by scoring points in almost all of the races.

On board was a new driver. Italian Vitantonio Liuzzi was the 2009 reserve driver for Force India, but was now taken as their primary driver. With a best finish of fifth on the grid twice by Adrian Sutil, Force India finished the season with 68 points and climbed higher in the constructor table to seventh. It was a moment of awe for all the Formula 1 fans and a proud moment for Indian fans.

2011 was another nice season for Force India, with a new driver, Paul Di Resta in the cockpit. This season was also a podium-less season for Force India, but the points did not stop coming nonetheless. With one point more than the previous season, Force India scored 69 championship points and finished a step higher in the constructor’s spot with a sixth-placed finish.

2012 was a miraculous season for Force India. With Nico Hulkenberg joining Paul Di Resta in the driver’s seat, Force India slung-shot their way to higher championship points, but the stakes were even higher. Nico Hulkenberg’s smart and quick driving quickly became a worry for all the Formula 1 teams out on the track. Threatening the biggies of Formula 1 was this four-year old team. Force India was now turning into a dark horse in the race and a team to be reckoned with. Throughout the season, they kept their point kitty ticking and giving the racers a hard time and a hell of a competition. With quick lap timings and faster racing, Force India was now becoming the new word of the mouth for all commentators, via some phenomenal driving by both drivers.

2012′s last race, Interlagos, saw the two top-seated drivers race for the championship, but the driver to really watch was Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg. Silently drafting his way through the top drivers, Nico displayed true racing spirit, which is no cup of tea for young racers like him. When people were busy watching Alonso and Vettel, Nico slowly secured his position. Suddenly, all attention from Alonso and Vettel changed to Nico and his expert driving skills. His effective cornering, high linear speed and control and stability, which was tough even for the likes of Vettel and Alonso to find so quickly in the wet slippery track, soon gave him high praise for his skills. Had an unfortunate accident between him and Hamilton not occurred, Nico was a sure shot winner for his first podium. Even after the safety cars were in play, Nico’s lead was not hampered. The unfortunate accident denied Hamilton his final point in his last race for McLaren, while it gave Nico a penalty for being responsible for the accident. Thus the wait for Force India’s second podium finish continues, and will continue without Nico, who has been signed by the Sauber team as they end up seventh in this season with 109 points.

But that’s not the end of Force India. Re-energized, re-built and re-constructing themselves,  Sahara Force India is a team to surely watch out for in the coming seasons. Full of enthusiasm and spirit, Force India is the team that is surely going to map India in the world of Formula One racing.

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