Team: Force India Mercedes (108 points, 7th in 2012 constructor’s championship)
2012 Drivers: Nico Hulkenberg (63 points, 11th in 2012 driver’s championship, now with Sauber), Paul di Resta (46 points, 14th in championship)
2013 Drivers: Paul di Resta (Car Number 14) and Adrian Sutil (15)
New Car: The VJM06 is clearly an evolution of last year’s car and has shown itself to be quick in testing. But is it enough? Development on its predecessor had pretty much ground to a halt by mid season, so is the new car the one the team should have been racing at the end of last season, not the start of this? Di Resta didn’t seem a happy boy once he was back from his summer hols last year. He and the team cannot afford for that to happen again.
What Force India says about its 2012 season: “It’s just the way Scots are. Seriously, we are a happy bunch. Everything’s fine.”
What we say about 2012: Twelve months ago Force India were being spoken of as a team somewhere between the front and the back. The reality last year was that Williams won a race and Sauber won podiums and points, pushing Force India down to seventh, one spot lower than its 2011 result.
Which seems kind of odd now as Hulkenberg and di Resta were always there or thereabouts at the front of the Q3 group and the back of the Q2 bunch. Let’s also not forget that Hulkenberg led the final race of 2012 and was unlucky to get a stop-go for tangling with Lewis Hamilton’s McLaren.
And then there are those drivers, di Resta and Hulkenberg. There was a time last year when both were strongly linked with Ferrari and/or McLaren. Arguably Hulkenberg’s sideways move to Sauber is part of a longer-term Ferrari incubation. Regardless, my point is Force India had potential and talent in abundance yet didn’t quite deliver.
Fast forward and Force India have had another ‘good winter’ and covered Hulkenberg’s move by re-signing Adrian Sutil, who took a year out in 2012 while the unsavoury business of his assault on Renault team boss Gerard Lopez ran its course in the courts. The papers meanwhile are full of the financial issues besetting owners Vijay Mallya and the Sahara Group yet the team, outwardly at least, seems to have the money it needs. Re-signing Sutil helped there.
What Force India has to do to impress us this year: Pretty much what it didn’t quite do last year — finish sixth. If – as seems – Mercedes has hauled itself out the pack, then sixth really is the best the team can hope for. But it would be nice to see them running interference once in a while. And it would be nice to see Paul di Resta smile occasionally too; c’mon Paul, you might not be winning, but you are in Formula One?
If you pay any attention to testing… Well you’d be impressed. Quick from the first day of the first test, both Force Indias finished inside the top ten by the time teams upped sticks in Barcelona with Sutil seventh and di Resta ninth. Mind you, that put them ahead of the Red Bulls so, as ever, we’re not sure it means much.
Who are Force India really racing this year? On the basis of testing (see above) it looks tight in the pack, with maybe Sauber just a shade quicker and Williams right behind. Hulk in the Sauber and Bottas in the Williams will be tough competitors, so Sutil and di Resta will need to work as a team, and that’s not always a given.