The midway point of the Team Review series has seen the spotlight set on Force India, a team who experienced a mirrored season compared to rivals Sauber – Force India were significantly disadvantaged by the tyre construction changes which derailed their challenge at the head of the field and refocused their campaign on defending from a fast charging Sauber who were catching fast. While they managed to hold on to P6 in the constructors, it was certainly a rocky ride, especially when Paul Di Resta’s form took a turn for the worst during the Asian leg of the season.
Both Di Resta and Sutil experienced similar season’s. This highlighted the struggles faced by the team in general in the second half of the year. Prior to the the tyre construction change the team was on the crest of a wave, as the car was well suited to the scale of conservation required to maintain tyre life. This was highlighted in Australia, as Adrian Sutil enjoyed a remarkable race where he managed to two stop. His strategy was radical and only matched by the eventual winner Kimi Raikkonen in the Lotus. Unfortunately for Adrian, an extended final stint on the option tyre proved to be too ambitious and after briefly leading the race while strategies overlapped, he fell to P7. However, with Di Resta just behind, it was an impressive weekend for the team which was catalysed by excellent tyre management.
This characteristic proved highly lucrative for the team as they continued to gain vital points through management of the high degradation rubber. Paul Di Resta’s P4 in Bahrain was a prime example of the strength of Force India’s early season package – Paul was unfortunate not to gain his first career podium, as he lost out to a fast charging Romain Grosjean in the closing stages. Meanwhile, Di Resta was once again performing admirably in Canada, as he recorded a remarkable 52 lap stint on one set of prime tyres which earned him P7 following a disappointing Qualifying session.
This remarkable tyre preservation guided the team to an incredible early total of 59 points by the German Grand Prix. However, from this race forward, the team’s fortunes took a dramatic change once tyre construction was altered by Pirelli. The team only surmounted another 18 points throughout the final 10 races, while rivals Sauber began to close the gap between the two teams.
In terms of the driver pairing, it was not a match made in heaven. Paul and Adrian did not share a perfect relationship, especially following the Australian Grand Prix, where Paul suggested that Adrian halted his progress in the closing stages of the race while his tyres had hit the proverbial cliff. Perhaps they failed to bury the hatchet but for reasons unknown, the team dynamic was not ideal.
At least this will not be an issue for the team next season as they entertain an all new driver pairing of Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez. The team’s dismissal of Paul Di Resta seems somewhat unjustified, as his points total of 48 dwarfed that of teammate Sutil who managed just 29 points. His lack of sponsorship should not be an issue for the team considering their lucrative Team Principal, owner of the Kingfisher Group and the assets of Sahara. Undoubtedly, Paul’s lapse in form between Belgium and Korea was at the crucial decision making period, which will have influenced the team’s judgement. Di Resta failed to make the cut, yet he can leave the sport with his head held high after a positive three year stint as a Force India driver.
On reflection, Force India will feel that 2013 was a missed opportunity. Their initial package was exceptional, yet the mid-season tyre alterations derailed their chances of snatching the all-important P5 in the championship. Their position in the constructors is still positive and their confidence will not be deterred by their poor second half of the year.