2008: Force India

Adrian Sutil, Force India F1 Team, Barcelona, 2008 pre-season testing, 2 | Force India F1 TeamIs Giancarlo Fisichella right to be this optimistic about Force India?:

Looking at everybody’s lap times I believe we will not have a car that will be last anymore.

His boss certainly thinks so – Colin Kolles reckons the team will make it into the second part of qualifying in Melbourne in three Saturday’s time.

That’s a bold statement from a team that was usually the first to get knocked out of qualifying in 2007 – but the team has seen substantial change since it transformed from Spyker to Force India F1 Team.

First, the budget. With Indian billionaire Vijay Mallya on board Force India have $ 120m (??60.38m) to spend this year compared with $ 50m (??25.16m) in 2007.

Second, the drivers. Promising rookie Adrian Sutil has been retained. Hopeless stand-in Sakon Yamamoto has been dispensed with and prodigal son Giancarlo Fisichella has returned. For it was this team, in its original form Jordan, that lifted Fisichella from Minardi into a competitive seat back in 1997, and happily received him once again for 2002-3, when he scored his first ever win.

The pair are backed up by the under-rated Vitantonio Liuzzi, whom Mallya expects to keep the lead drivers honest:

If they need any motivation, they need only look at who the test driver is. They are going to need to be performing or else there is a guy there who can obviously step in. He is quick, he’s experienced and he wants to be a race driver.

Mike Gascoyne has described the driver line up as: “obviously a massive step forward over where we were last year,” which is no understatement – they had five different test drivers!

Giancarlo Fisichella, Force India, Barcelona, 2008 pre-season testing | Force India F1 TeamTo all this promise and the undoubted enthusiasm of an expectant nation must be added a dose of reality. Force India are not going to be challenging the front runners any time soon.

The VJM01 is based on last year’s Spyker F8-VII B-spec with the relevant updates to ensure compliance with the 2008 regulations. In testing it’s usually been towards the bottom of the times sheets, occasionally ahead of the Hondas.

But Gascoyne’s plucky decision to stick Markus Winkelhock on wet weather tyres at the start of last year’s European Grand Prix showed the team have the guts to take risky decisions. Fisichella may have struggled at Renault these past three seasons but he’s always shined when helping small teams punch above their weight.

With a splash of rain and a following wind, perhaps at one of the unpredictable new-for-2008 street circuits, they might score a shock result. Otherwise Force India’s potential is all long-term.

Photos copyright: Force India F1 Team

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11 comments on 2008: Force India

  1. If Force India do what Spyker did under Gascoyne last year i.e. introduce an updated B-spec car midway through the season when their competitors are focusing on 2009 then they may score a few points. Mallya seems like an ambitious bloke too, and just the guy to lead Force India into the midfield, although he might settle for beating Super Aguri (if they turn up) to the 10th place TV money.

  2. With Gascoyne running the show the team is always going to be making progress. I still don’t understand why Toyota didn’t give him full control of their aero department.

  3. Mallya is a very shrewd businessman, on a different level than Schnaider and Mol. He has also been involved in F1 for a few years, so he’s not new to the sport. I think a team spirit and character changes when they feel supported, and the cash injection will make huge difference. Gascoyne is one of the sharpest minds out there. Alonso’s winning Renault cars were the result of Mike’s efforts and Kolles seems to have weathered the ridicule that accompanied him when he first arrived and shown himself to be a bit of a political tactician, so it looks like Force India has real momentum now. Should make for great racing. In depth story on Mallya here:http://www.f1i.com/features.php?id=9155

    As for Gascoyne and Toyota, it’s just another example of why they are not a winning team. They spend piles of money to lure him away from Renault, then wouldn’t let him run the team in the way that he proved is the right way to go. I don’t really have any confidence that Toyota will ever get it right. They should sell the team to Richards.

  4. If Honda really is as bad as their test times suggest, they’ve probably got the last row locked down. Last year proved that Spyker/Force India can get the odd point when things get random because of their operational quality, so surely that will happen again. The only question then is whether Force India will get into Q2 – and I’m quietly confident that Fisi will, if not necessarily Sutil.

    By the way, Keith, I think the figures you quoted “0m (£60.38m) to spend this year compared with m (£25.16m” should read $120m and $70m respectively.

  5. Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 28th February 2008, 23:28

    Yes I’ve got a problem with numbers following a $ sign – they won’t format correctly. If anyone can help please let me know! Contact details here.

  6. The numbers display perfectly in my comp, Keith. And regarding Force India, I reckon, by the end of the season, they’ll be ahead of a couple or more teams. You may want to check this out:http://rumblingv8.wordpress.com/2008/02/26/2008-predictions-part-1/

  7. I certainly hope Force India puts on a good showing in 2008- anything that evens out the playing field a bit is more than welcome. With an experienced guy like Fisi onboard, I believe some progress is possible. Still, with the car being an upgraded version of Spyker’s ride from last season, i’m wondering if either driver will have the tools to get any work done.

  8. I was expecting from the moment Fisi got shipped out of Renault that Mallya will hire him. Smart move from his side and it looks like the combination of Mallya’s cash and Gascoyne + Fisichella experience is going to work.

    Honda should pay up for Super Aguri, that looks like the only way for Honda to avoid being dead last on the grid …

  9. oliver said on 29th February 2008, 10:14

    Honda is already giving SuperAguri last year’s paint scheme, if anything, it should really slow them down.

    The guys at ForceInida, ex Jordan-Midland-Spiker, are really talented individuals. The assurance of funding allows them to come up with a plan on how to move themselves forward on the grid, rather than fighting small fires.

  10. TommyB said on 29th February 2008, 14:20

    Fissi always seems to be great in a crap car and bad in a great car :) I think Force India will do OK this year, i expect a few top 10 finishes

  11. Hey, looking at testing in Barcelona, I am very sure that at least in the second half of the season, the team will be a serious challenger to all midfield teams like honda, williams etc…

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