Force India are often labeled as F1’s best team. They may not have the manufacturer muscle of Mercedes, the heritage of Ferrari or World Championship trophies littering their lobby, but what they do have is an effective design team who convert their available resources into the maximum available points.
A record-breaking fourth place finish in the 2016 Constructors’ Standings was their well-earned reward. It seems implausible that they can improve upon what was a remarkable 2016 and break into the top three.
However, Vijay Mallya certainly believes it to be possible. On Wednesday, the team unveiled their 2017 challenger – the VJM10 – and it is certainly a bold design to match their big ambitions.
This is the most technically complex car we have seen so far. Andrew Green’s team of magicians at Silverstone have been bold, crafting complicated bargeboards, a continuation of the Force India “nostril nose” and the inclusion of a curious stepped nose that echoes of 2012.
Whether or not you think it looks as good as Renault’s masterpiece – the RS17 that was launched on Tuesday in London – is a matter of aesthetic perception. Albeit a cliche, it’s the laptimes that matter. For better or worse, the VJM10 in launch spec seems far more complex than the Renault.
The comparisons between the two teams are unlikely to stop at launch week. Vijay Mallya was in defiant mood during the unveiling and downplayed the comments of Renault Team Principal, Cyril Abiteboul, who suggested that Force India and other small teams would fall behind in the development race.
“I read an article this morning that Cyril Abiteboul of Renault said that poor teams such as Force India were going to suffer in this arms race. Well, good luck to him,” Mallya stated when speaking to Sky F1’s Natalie Pinkham.
“He might have to eat his words. It’s not the amount of arms you have, it’s the quality of your weaponry.”
Force India’s reveal has certainly cemented the excitement among fans and journalists surrounding launch week. This is a fascinating time to follow the sport and without doubt, the most intriguing car launch season of my lifetime.
Just four cars have been revealed, yet already there are vastly different concepts on display, as teams have clearly interpreted 2017’s regulations in alternate ways. Some will have found the right formula, others will undoubtedly need to return to the drawing board.
Mallya went on to highlight that a spot among F1’s top three constructors’ is Force India’s 2017 ambition. If some of the more radical concepts within their 2017 package are vindicated by Mercedes, Ferrari, McLaren and Red Bull’s car launches later in the week, then what seems an overestimation of their potential could suddenly seem far less improbable.