F1 Badger’s series of team previews continues with last year’s ninth place finishers, Force India.
The team’s recent history is marked by a whirlwind of different ownership. Without getting too far into it, the chain goes something like this: Jordan (we all remember that one) to Midland (eminently forgettable, competed in 2006) to Spyker (possibly even more forgettable – competed in 2007), ending neatly with Force India, who first arrived on the scene in time for the 2008 season. With such rapid turnover, there comes a point where you just give up trying to keep track and accept there’ll always be one team on the grid whose name/ownership really aren’t worth bothering with. Thankfully, however, it looks like Force India has good financial backing and is here to stay, at least for the time being.
With that in mind, let’s have a look at the man who’s brought stability to the team: Vijay Mallya, an Indian billionaire. As we saw in the Toro Rosso preview (if you haven’t read it, you really should…), it’s not uncommon for F1 teams to be part of a wider business strategy and Force India’s certainly no different. Mallya’s interest in F1 appears to involve his passion for promoting his own brands (obviously!) as well as Indian culture across the world. This hobby has included, in very James Bond style, proffering winning bids for items of Indian cultural heritage at auction – including a famous sword (nifty, eh?) and the belongings of Mahatma Gandhi. He also owns both the Bangalore Royal Challengers (an Indian Premier League cricket team) and East Bengal FC (an Indian football team). It has to be said that Force India is the only one of his three sporting teams to have a distinct global appeal, so its value in promoting India to the rest of the world is clear.
The team’s debut season in F1 didn’t go fantastically well. With a grand total of zero points, they finished tenth in the 2008 championship. Even more galling, and probably most noteworthy of their escapades during the season, was the Monaco Grand Prix. Just in case your memory doesn’t stretch back that far, on lap 68, Adrian Sutil, running a very creditable fourth having made his way through the field, exited the tunnel and on the way down to the chicane was booted up the rear by an out-of-control Kimi Raikonnen in the Ferrari. See here for the rather sad video footage.
Things in 2009 improved markedly, which may or may not have been due to their deal with Mercedes for engines, gearboxes and lots of other good stuff. Usually you’d expect a team towards the bottom of the grid to pick up points in ones or twos throughout the season but, towards the end of the campaign, Force India managed their only scoring performances with a second place in Belgium (Fisichella, after qualifying first) and fourth place in Italy (Sutil, after qualifying second). In other news, there was also a reprise of the Sutil and Raikkonen show in Germany, with both cars suffering damage yet again. Combined with some other impressive qualifying performances towards the end of the season, these race performances reflect the vast improvement made by the team, hopefully standing them in good stead for the upcoming season.
Force India is one of only three teams to start the 2010 season with the same drivers that raced in the last GP of 2009, so you’ll get to see everyone’s favourite quick but crashy German, Adrian Sutil and his erstwhile Italian teammate, Antonio Liuzzi. Both have something to prove; Sutil that he can be trusted to bring the car home in one piece on a regular basis and Liuzzi that he’s, well, quick enough to deserve a race seat in F1. As excellently previewed by Jimmy Von Weeks on F1 Badger recently, Paul di Resta will be the team’s third driver, coming in with Mercedes’ backing. The team’s new car was revealed today (February 9th) during an internet launch (there’s a credit crunch, don’t you know). See here for more photos. Let’s just hope they can carry forward the momentum achieved at the back end of last season into their testing programme (due to start at Jerez on February 10th), as well as into the season proper.
Now comes the time for some predictions. Let us know what you think – agree or disagree, we really don’t mind; just make sure you get involved!
Minimum target: Regular finishes within the midfield.
Ambitious target: Consistent qualifying to the standard of the end of last season, with finishes to match.
Benson Jamichello’s prediction: A good season for Force India, including some surprising performances.