Experienced driver line-up could be Force India’s trump card

2013 F1 season preview

Paul di Resta, Force India, Circuit de Catalunya, 2013When Nico Hulkenberg announced he was leaving Force India for Sauber last year, team mate Paul di Resta called it a “sideways move”.

Di Resta might have reconsidered that view earlier this year as deadline after deadline passed during the off-season without his team mate being announced.

Force India’s prevarication over their driver line-up was not because they were conducting a lengthy evaluation of the relative merits of Adrian Sutil and Jules Bianchi. This was about money.

The team have been at pains to distance themselves from the widely publicised problems in owner Vijay Mallya’s business empire. But the dots between Mallya’s struggling airline, his declining personal wealth and the team he bankrolls at considerable cost have to join up somewhere.

For now, the team look to be in a reasonably strong position. The new car, an evolution of the machine which led 30 laps of the last Grand Prix, was rolled out at Silverstone and has given the team little trouble in testing.

The basics of the package are solid and though their driver line-up may lack sparkle it has the benefit of experience.

Having ended the season with a competitive car the team should be in the hunt for points from round one. But their dithering over drivers can only have disrupted their pre-season preparations and does not inspire confidence in their long-term prospects.

Car 14: Paul di Resta

Di Resta had a solid debut campaign in 2011 but the shine came off a bit when he went up against Hulkenberg last year.

However his problems towards the end of the season were partly due to a defect in his chassis incurred when he crashed during practice in Japan. It went unfixed for several races, which coincided with Hulkenberg’s purple patch.

Reunited with his team mate of two years ago, Di Resta needs a conclusive points victory over Sutil If he’s too stand a chance of attracting the attention he desires from the top teams.

Car 15: Adrian Sutil

Adrian Sutil, Force India, Circuit de Catalunya, 2013The return of Adrian Sutil to F1 is another sign of the difficult financial times.

Sutil is not unworthy of an F1 seat, though previous seasons of middling results mixed with the occasional high point suggest we’ve already seen the best of him. One of those high points was undoubtedly his last race, which yielded a sixth place in Brazil.

The team have made progress since then and a year out of the cockpit seems to have given Sutil the benefit of perspective. His rivalry with Di Resta promises to be one of the year’s most interesting intra-team contests.

Force India VJM06

Force India championship form

http://www.f1fanatic.co.uk/charts/stats.csv

2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013
Championship position 10 9 7 6 7
Wins 0 0 0 0 0

Force India in 2013: Your view

Can Force India recover the sixth place in the constructors’ championship they lost last year? What does the future hold for this team?

Have your say in the comments.

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33 comments on Experienced driver line-up could be Force India’s trump card

  1. Ivan B (@njoydesign) said on 11th March 2013, 9:46

    To me, Force India got the most uninspiring driver pairing this season. Di Resta, who at the moment brings only the word “meh” to my head, and a criminal, who I was bored with even before he got his conviction and lost his seat.
    They should be solid midfielders throughout the season, with maybe a couple of good performances, but honestly, I don’t really care.

    • petebaldwin (@petebaldwin) said on 11th March 2013, 10:09

      I know what you mean. I know they aren’t going to push forward with that lineup – they’ll score some points over the season but it certainly won’t be an improvement over last year. With 2 cars exiting in Q1 this year, I think they could find that they are battling to stay in the midfield with Toro Rosso as opposed to challenging Williams and Sauber.

    • Klaas (@klaas) said on 11th March 2013, 10:15

      That has always been FI’ problem – signing boring, lacklustre, uninspiring drivers. Yes, most of them proved to be solid midfield drivers but with them they’ll remain where they are instead of going for the top. Williams, Lotus GP used to have the same problem a season-two ago – there was no one to watch really – now they have one of the most exciting line-ups which draws a lot of attention and possibly more sponsors.

      • andae23 (@andae23) said on 11th March 2013, 10:39

        That has always been FI’ problem – signing boring, lacklustre, uninspiring drivers.

        Nico HĂĽlkenberg?

        • Klaas (@klaas) said on 11th March 2013, 10:46

          Yes, him too. Had some solid results but didn’t really open eyes wide.

          • andae23 (@andae23) said on 11th March 2013, 13:14

            I agree with you that he din’t have many races were he was shining (Brazil 2010 and 2012 spring to mind), but he has always been ‘there’. He is one of the most consistent drivers, doens’t make mistakes too often. And let’s go to junior series: he has been mighty impressive in F3 and GP2, and don’t forget the dominancy in A1GP, in which he made the other drivers look like amateurs.

          • Mike (@mike) said on 11th March 2013, 13:22

            @klaas

            Haha, I think if Nico doesn’t do it for you, no rookie will!

          • Ritesh (@rits) said on 11th March 2013, 14:46

            You’re obviously joking.

          • MagillaGorilla (@magillagorilla) said on 11th March 2013, 20:06

            @klass Not sure how you extrapolate that, and a bigger issue than driver choice is the technical job being done over at FI along with the questionable finance job done by the owner so…I think FI need to square off many things if they even want to fight the top tier. I think FI are just happy to be along for the ride at this time, with the Formula 1 circus.

          • Klaas (@klaas) said on 12th March 2013, 8:37

            @rits @mike It’s not that Hulkenberg thrashed di Resta, or popped on the podium one time. He simply looked better on the background of some rather mediocre/crash-prone Maldonado midfielders (especially his totally uncharismatic and uncolourful team-mate). He’s a good solid driver but personally I see him in the same league as Button and Webber. It’s interesting to see what he will do in the Sauber this season although I don’t suspect he’ll raise more eyebrows.

      • Todfod (@todfod) said on 11th March 2013, 10:59

        That has always been FI’ problem – signing boring, lacklustre, uninspiring drivers. Yes, most of them proved to be solid midfield drivers but with them they’ll remain where they are instead of going for the top.

        What are you talking about? They’ve had the strongest driver line up of all the mid field teams over the past 3 seasons. Williams has had Maldonado and Senna… ugh.. those guys couldnt even come close to maximising the Williams potential.

        Then there is Sauber who had Perez and Kobayashi.. while they were a strong pairing, I think Perez was no where as good as Hulkenberg

        Then are the Toro Rosso Drivers… the most boring an untalented drivers on the grid over the past 3 seasons.

        They might not have a really strong line up this year… but you cannot say that their problems have been driver related

        • David-A (@david-a) said on 11th March 2013, 13:28

          I agree with all of that @todfod

          I think they could find that they are battling to stay in the midfield with Toro Rosso as opposed to challenging Williams and Sauber.

          @petebaldwin – In fairness, FI beat Williams handily last year, even with an inferior car, though FI have lost Hulk, while Williams have gained with Bottas.

        • Pawanpaul said on 11th March 2013, 19:23

          I am a force India fan
          if nico did the right move to move to sauber
          management of force india thinks they have made right decision to pick sutil to fulfills nicos vacant seat..
          sutil vs hulk battle will be interesting

        • Klaas (@klaas) said on 12th March 2013, 8:53

          They’ve had the strongest driver line up of all the mid field teams over the past 3 seasons.

          Yes, but they didn’t get any progress with them. I think in 2012 Williams had the weakest line-up overall (I’m not counting Toro Rosso as a racing team but simply as Marko’s puppet show) with crash-prone Maldonado and nowhere-in-qualy Senna but they came up with a win. This season if Pastor mantains his qualy form bu starts using his brains more and Bottas lives up to the expectations they could easily lead the midfield. Sauber can benefit a bit from Hulks solid form but where they end up in will depend most on how Guttierez fares. I really don’t see Force India with it’s current drivers
          making any steps forward, they seem to have reached the top of performance curve in what concerns the drivers. They could have kept di Resta for consistent point finishes but in the second seat they desperately need some fresh blood, someone who can pop up and get unexpected results (like Maldonado or Perez did).

    • BasCB (@bascb) said on 11th March 2013, 17:25

      the most uninspiring driver pairing this season

      a bit of a Nick Heidfeld level, you know they will bring in the reliable points but its hard to get genuinly exited.

  2. GeeMac (@geemac) said on 11th March 2013, 10:03

    Isn’t Subrata Roy (the boss of Sahara) also in financial trouble?

  3. Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 11th March 2013, 10:20

    Reunited with his team mate of two years ago, Di Resta needs a conclusive points victory over Sutil If he’s too stand a chance of attracting the attention he desires from the top teams.

    Honestly, I think there’s more at stake than a drive with a front-running team – Paul di Resta needs to beat Adrian Sutil if he wants to stand any chance of staying in the sport. If he loses to Sutil again, it will be the third consecutive year that his team-mate has bested him, and Force India will be hard-pressed to justify keeping him around in 2014. Doubly so, since Adrian Sutil knows the team and could easily supersede di Resta next year. I can’t recall the last time a driver was kept by his team for a fourth season after being roundly beaten by his team-mates in the first three. Sure, there’s his connection to Mercedes, which subsidises the team’s engines, but it has been speculated that Adrian Sutil also brings an engine subsidy to the team, so di Resta may well have lost his one advantage.

    This year is going to be a case of sink or swim for Paul di Resta. And I honestly wouldn’t be bothered if he sank.

  4. magon4 (@magon4) said on 11th March 2013, 13:18

    Sutil will raise eyebrows, this is my prediction! It might be him ending up in a top team. Long shot, but I can see it.

  5. AbeyG (@1abe) said on 11th March 2013, 19:12

    Lot of fans are skeptical of this teams performance and specially with the driver line up. FI is one of the most consistent team among all the mid field teams since the last 3 years. Everyone are expecting Williams and Sauber to be in the mix with the top teams for podiums and race wins but lets be realistic, this is completely based on testing times and does not always give the right picture. Sauber had 4 podiums last year but was 17 points away from FI and Williams had a race winning car but fell short of 33 points at the end of last season. This is what ultimately matters for these teams by the end of the season. Constructor Championship Points.
    I am keepin my fingers crossed and expecting some good performance this year. I wont rule out any podium finishes for FI this year though i expect it to be difficult. The driver line up may not be inspiring, thats true, but that does not mean they do not have potential. Honestly, i think both the drivers realize that its make or break season for their careers. This gives a possiblity of some inspired drives that we have been missing these years from Force India.

  6. Pawanpaul said on 12th March 2013, 8:55

    yaa it’s do or die for both sutil and diresta…..
    extra 50 million is added to boost there performance……
    who knows if they can beat Lotus or Mercedes at more tracks
    5 th in constructor is little far
    6th above sauber and Williams will be a easy task………….
    the battle in the midfield driver’s will be . hulk vs sutil vsMaldonado vs diresta….
    for the midfield winner…
    50-50 chances for hulk and sutil
    for this battle in the midfield iam waiting for..

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