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!
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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