Friday, 10 April 2009

A Force to be reckoned with, perhaps?

To me, one of the biggest leaps in terms of techincal advances has to be Force India. Say what you will but I think that while they're still considered the backmarkers of the field somewhat, they do have an ace up their sleeve in the form of that partnership with McLaren and Mercedes. The effects of it aren't really evident at the moment but I'm sure that behind the doors of Vijay Mallya's outfit at Silverstone there is some Woking magic being waved on the VJM02.

The team has certainly come a long way and been on quite a journey since Eddie Jordan cast his eyes on his cars rolling out of the garages in Phoenix, Arizona some 18 years ago now. From there they've won 4 races and changed ownership and name 3 times, from Jordan to Midland to Spyker and finally Force India as we now know it. But right now, they are far from the race-winning form that some people might have thought possible with the influence of Ron Dennis and McLaren alongside them. Oh sure, it's going to take something pretty special for them to taste the sweet nectar of success for the first time but with the right resources and some good know-how, it can be done. Mallya himself still believes an FIF1 on the podium at the inaugural Indian Grand Prix is achieveable. People can dream of course, and what's wrong with that? But somehow it does seem a little ambitious. Give them credit, this incarnation of the team's championship challenger is strides better than 2008's, which saw them firmly at the rear of the pack following Super Aguri's tragic demise prior to the Turkish Grand Prix.

Adrian Sutil has recently said it himself that the improvements to the car will come eventually and probably within the next few races. He says there is potential in the package they have, but one quote from the story stands out for me more than anything else contained in it:

"It's a difficult situation because there was not much testing as we built
the car in about 120 days, so it's hard to pick up."

4 months? 4 months?! Not even McLaren leave that amount of time to make their car. In fact at the time they launched the MP4-24 they were already some 2 months into design for the 2010 machine. One can't help but wonder why they didn't start working on it in 2008. Honda knew their season would be useless and rightly focused on '09 and look where their successors Brawn GP are now - topping both championship tables with Button on 2 race wins from the first 2 rounds. So why didn't the Force do this as well? Surely they must have known their car wasn't one to get them podiums or victories, so changing focus to this season would have been a logical step. Look at what it's done for Toyota, Williams and in some ways BMW.

I can see these guys scoring a few points but probably not regularly just yet. From what I've seen so far the car is lacking pace in qualifying which is why it hasn't made Q2 just yet, despite being fairly close on both occasions. In terms of race pace and reliability it's certainly quicker than a year ago and a heck of a lot more reliable. I blame the Ferrari engine for their dismal 2008. As I briefly touched on in my post about Maranello yesterday, the Mercedes-Benz unit is rock solid and very powerful, the best in the field. Sutil himself was close to scoring FI's first point in Melbourne with 9th place. This means the car seems consistent and has better longevity. While the pace isn't quite there, it's only a matter of time before that McLaren techincal wizardry shines through and enables this team to live up to one half of its name - a real Force.