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Force India’s F1 journey and their 2014 title challenge

ANALYST
Modified 10 Mar 2014, 23:59 IST
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Sergio Perez (MEX) Force India and Nico Hulkenberg (GER) Force India F1 with the new Force India VJM07. Formula One Testing, Jerez, Spain, Day One, Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Since it’s inception in 2008, Force India has been a successful mid field team, with also the capability to at times challenge the front running teams.

During its span in the guise of the Jordan Grand Prix, the team had moderate success, especially in the late 1990s, where it emerged as a title contender. But this form soon faded away in the early 2000s and the team went out for sale in 2005. After two years spent as Midland F1 Racing and Spyker F1, it was finally acquired by Vijay Mallaya and Michiel Mol in 2008 and later Subrata Roy of Sahara also joined as a co-owner and thereby the team was named Sahara Force India Formula 1 Team.

2008, their first year as an Indian Formula 1 constructor was basically a development year in which they did not achieve much. But 2009 on the contrary proved to be a better year in which the team’s drivers Giancarlo Fisichella and Adrian Sutil produced some good results. The high point for the team during this season and albeit during the team’s short history in the sport, came during the mid-season. At the Belgian Grand Prix, Fisichella produced the team’s first and as of now only pole position in the sport. He followed this with an excellent performance in the race, in which he finished second just behind the KERS powered Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen.

But just after this race, Fisichella left the team to replace the injured Felipe Massa at Ferrari. At the next race in Monza, Italy, Adrian Sutil stepped up his game and qualified second and finished the race in fourth position. These two results were the standout performances for the team during the season.

In subsequent seasons, the team did well, performing beyond its might occasionally and challenging the front running teams. In the 2011 season, they lost 5th place in the Constructor’s Championship by just 4 points to Renault. Also in 2013, the team put up a challenge to F1 juggernaut McLaren Mercedes and were 22 points ahead of them after the British Grand Prix. But the changes in the tyres introduced after this race had a detrimental impact upon them. As after this, their momentum was derailed and they lost their grasp on McLaren.

Their challenge in 2014 looks strong, they appear to be in the best ever shape before a season. The team has a long standing relationship with Mercedes, which are their full Power Unit supplier. Out of the three engine suppliers currently involved in the sport, Mercedes powered cars have had the advantage during pre-season testing. During the 12 days of testing, Force India emerged fastest during three of those days, including the first two days of final pre-season testing, which are very crucial. With the amount of rule changes being introduced this year, it has become difficult for several teams to effectively adapt to these changes.

Considering this, Force India has done a commendable job with their new car, which seems to be both reliable and fast. This trait, combined with two talented drivers in the form of Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez has made them even stronger. Hulkenberg is a proven driver, with the ability to outperform his car, which was clearly evident last year during his time with Sauber. Also, Sergio Perez is out to prove his worth after being ousted by McLaren even after a modest season with the team which had produced a comparatively inferior car.

Force India enter the new season stronger than they have been compared to the previous years. They have been touted as dark horses by many in the F1 fraternity. Let’s hope that this will be the year they challenge the big teams and maybe finally proud Indian fans will get the chance to hear their national anthem playing in all its fervor on the F1 podium.

Published 10 Mar 2014, 20:07 IST
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