As mentioned in my previous article, it’s been a season of mixed fortunes for Force India, but the positives have outweighed the negatives. They have been consistently scoring points ever since their car upgrade (VJM09) in Spain – which improved handling – with the exception of their double retirement in Canada.
So that form has propelled them up to fifth in the Constructors’ Championship, just 15 points behind Williams. Traditionally, Williams would brush off a Force India challenge, but this year turns that tradition on its head. They’re well-known for their lightning-quick pit stops and their straight-line speed, but have struggled on slow circuits unlike Force India. The team have failed to finish above ninth since Valtteri Bottas’ sixth-place finish in Azerbaijan. Even more alarming is the form of Felipe Massa. The Brazilian has scored a mere two points since the Spanish Grand Prix in May, sitting outside the points in his previous four races.
So what can we expect from Force India? Races such as Singapore and the season finale in Abu Dhabi could be great opportunities for the team to score a podium due to the former’s regular safety car and the latter’s focus on tyre management, something that Force India have succeeded in over the past few years, scoring double points in four of the past five races there.
Other tracks still to come also seem to suit the team. Their Mercedes power will help at Monza, the fastest track of the year; and their improved handling will benefit them at Spa, a circuit where they have scored points every year since Giancarlo Fisichella’s second place back in 2009. Elsewhere, Force India will be looking for a great display at Interlagos – the penultimate race of the season. Nico Hulkenberg’s track record in Brazil speaks for itself: he has picked up points in every Brazilian Grand Prix of his career.
Elsewhere, the pit crew will be preparing for hectic weekends in Japan and Malaysia where the weather is a massive influence on the outcome of the race. Perez will be hoping for a strong result in his home GP in Mexico and the team will look to their reliable car in Austin – a track that put many cars to the sword last year with five out of the eight retirements coming down to car reliability.
As we look towards the end of the season, Force India look like a legitimate threat to Williams’ fourth place and if form and the circuits to come suggest anything, they may just take that spot. However, it’s worth remembering that Formula One is a cruel and unpredictable sport. As deputy team principal, Bob Fernley said in an interview with Motorsport.com, “I think we have got to be careful. First of all, our primary goal is making sure we secure fifth and maintain it.” The team are clearly staying grounded, but who says they can’t aim for the stars? Don’t be surprised to see Force India move up the F1 ladder yet again.