Mid-Season Review: Force India

Over the years, Force India have earned a seat at F1’s table for the underdogs. So often, the Silverstone based squad have turned a lightweight budget into welter-weight machinery over the winter, only to be reigned in by the opposition over the course of the year and 2014 was a clear example of this trait. Conversely, the start of the 2015 campaign was a tale of damage limitation while the engineers could paper over the cracks which formed as a result of a disjointed winter. As it has turned out, Force India have proven that they are just as good in defense as they are attack in the opening exchanges of a campaign.

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 Timeline of the season so far

  • 21st January – Force India kick off the new season with a livery launch event at the Soumaya Museum in Mexico City, unveiling what the team describe as a “striking new livery”
  • 28th January – After announcing that they needed more time in the wind-tunnel at Cologne, the team stated that they would miss the Jerez test entirely.
  • 13th February – The team announce that they will run at the first of two Barcelona tests, but with their 2014 car as oppose to the unfinished VJM08.
  • 25th February – Rendered images of the VJM08 are finally revealed ahead of its test debut in the third and final pre-season test.
  • 10th June – Force India’s Deputy Team Principal Bob Fernley confirms that the team will debut the B-Spec VJM08, equipped with the aerodynamic features developed in the Cologne wind-tunnel, at the British Grand Prix.
  • 14th June – Nico Hulkenberg becomes the first active F1 driver in 24 years to take victory at the Le Mans 24 Hours. The German competed with Porsche, alongside teammate’s Nick Tandy and Earl Bamber.
  • 26th July – Force India end the Hungarian Grand Prix with concerns over their aerodynamic upgrades, after suspension failure in FP1 pitched Sergio Perez into a nasty accident, while a front wing failure curtailed Nico Hulkenberg’s progress during the race.

Team Performance

Current Constructors Standings Position: 5th (39 points)

Despite being a team famous for punching above their weight, Force India will surely take extra pride in their efforts so far in 2015. After having to temper their aspirations in light of a hugely challenging winter and a mere three days of running their 2015 challenger prior to the curtain-raiser, the team have recovered remarkably well to enter the mid-way point of the campaign in a healthy fifth place. Given the particularly competitive nature of 2015’s mid-grid, this is quite the achievement, having run what was essentially a tweaked version of their 2014 package for the majority of the campaign to date.

When the Cologne inspired aerodynamic package arrived, it caused a stir in the paddock, as Force India including two air inlets on top of the nose – a piece of technical ingenuity in what is largely a copy-cat field under the current regulations – making the VJM08 all the more “striking”. While it remains to be seen whether the entire aerodynamic package can be retained for future races, given the concerning incidents which derailed the team’s progress in Hungary, Force India have performed well in the face of trials and tribulations throughout 2015, which will surely inspire the team through any kind of tricky spell that is to come.

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Driver Performance

Nico Hulkenberg

Current Drivers Standings Position: 9th (24 points)

Best Finish: 6th (Austrian GP)

Grade: B+

Sergio Perez

Current Drivers Standings Position: 13th (15 points)

Best Finish: 7th (Monaco GP)

Grade: B-

The dynamic of the intra-team duel at Force India is intriguing, with complexities that are unrivaled by even the dice at Mercedes. Nico Hulkenberg has dominated affairs on a Saturday afternoon this season, having beaten Sergio Perez on eight occasions, yet the Mexican has restored pride on a Sunday, edging out his counterpart by six races to four.

However, Hulkenberg’s second quarter of 2015 has been sublime. His stunning victory at the Le Mans 24 Hours has made the most headlines, but his performances since Monaco are unquestionably noteworthy, as he has beaten Perez at three of the four rounds, including a textbook weekend in Austria where he exceeded all expectations and a sensible drive to seventh at Silverstone, following the start of the season so far.The German is excellent value for his 24 point haul, despite starting the campaign in sluggish fashion.

Mid-Season Assessment

B+

Force India have performed admirably so far this season given their trials and tribulations endured at the start of the year. The VJM08 may have arrived a day late and a dollar short, but the subsequent damage limitation effort conducted by the team was near perfect and as such, they find themselves in a hugely strong position at the mid-way point of the year. With their upgrades fitted, Force India look to be the firm favourites to bag the much contested fifth place in the constructors championship come November.

Image Credit: "British GP 5 July 2015, Silverstone 013" and "DSC_9600"
By Rob Dunckley and Jon Large (via Flickr) [CC-BY-NC-ND-2.0]
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