Force India’s technical tie-up with McLaren-Mercedes, which was rumoured for several weeks, was announced today.
Having used Ferrari engines in 2006 (as Spyker) and 2007, Force India is embarking on an ambitious project which will see them use the same gearbox, KERS, Mercedes engine and other parts as McLaren.
How will this massive acquisition of kit, which is supplied by the winners of the drivers’ championship, transform the fortunes of the team that ended 2008 point-less?
The scale of the deal between Force India and McLaren is interesting for technical, political and sporting reasons.
From a technical point of view it will give McLaren increased opportunity to test its Kinetic Energy Recovery System. Force India benefit because, having struggled with reliability this year (eight mechanical DNFs, more than any other team), they will now be able to use some of the most reliable equipment in the pit lane.
Politically the deal is interesting because the ‘everything but the kitchen sink’ arrangement is not unlike what McLaren came close to arranging with Prodive for 2008. The crucial difference is that Force India will not be using McLaren’s chassis. The agreement seems to have the blessing of the FIA – Vijay Malla said:
I would personally like to thank Bernie Ecclestone and FIA President Max Mosley, both of whom offered their assistance and support throughout the gestation of the deal.
The arrangement could be a new blueprint for how independent teams can ally with manufacturers in future to reduce their costs. Will Red Bull and Toro Rosso follow suit with a similar arrangement in future?
Finally the deal has a sporting dimension. Force India expect to be propelled up the grid in 2009 and challenge regularly for points. Mallya – whose ambitions regarding his team have been fairly restrained up to this point – is now talking about winning races in 2010 and getting a car on the podium at the inaugural Indian Grand Prix in 2011.
It remains to be seen whether Mallya is now beholden to McLaren in terms of driver choice. Although he announced last month he would retain Giancarlo Fisichella and Adrian Sutil for 2009, rumours have suggested McLaren testers Pedro de la Rosa and Paul di Resta (but not, it seems, Gary Paffett) could now become Force India racers in 2009.
What’s your take on the Force India-McLaren deal? Will Force India become regular points scorers in 2009? Will they change their driver line-up to suit McLaren’s preference?