Tag Archives: Force India

Adrian Sutil beats Jules Bianchi to final Force India seat

With only 16 days left until the start of the F1 season, Force India have finally completed their driver line-up. Adrian Sutil will return to the cockpit after a 1-year hiatus, being chosen over young driver Jules Bianchi.

Sutil was convicted in January 2012 of an assault on Genii Capital CEO Eric Lux, and was given an 18-month suspended sentence. This led to his dismissal from the team for the following season.

Even with worries that he may not be allowed into China (where the assault took place), Sutil has been granted a spot in his old team. He drove for it when it was called Spyker (2007), then Force India from 2008 to 2011.

Jules Bianchi, who was also in contention for the final F1 seat of 2013, has been retained by the team as a reserve driver, and the team have hinted that they will consider him as a future driver in years to come.

Force India release VJM06, but confusion reigns over second driver

Force India followed Ferrari’s suit in showing off their 2013 car today – theirs is called the VJM06.

The car was launched via an online feed, but a large amount of viewers – myself included – were unable to watch it due to the page not loading, presumably due to high demand.

Technical

As expected, the VJM06 builds upon the strong points of the VJM05. However, they appeared to have taken a new direction on the nosecone, which is wider at the end than it is in the middle.

Some have noted that this may to be to deflect air around the car, instead of over it. The raised section of the nose has been shielded by the modesty panel, meaning that only Lotus so far has not used the device.

Interestingly, much of the rear of the car was painted completely black, probably in order to hide their exhaust solution until Jerez testing. However, amateur photos at the event have shown that the exhaust air is directed towards the wheels as opposed to the diffuser.

No news about second driver

While Paul di Resta was on hand to pose in some photos, there was no statement from the team regarding his teammate.

Force India have confirmed that they will not confirm their second driver until testing begins, and they may not even make an announcement until the second test in Barcelona.

It is believed that Adrian Sutil, Jaime Alguersuari, Bruno Senna and Jules Bianchi are still all in the running for the race seat.

Nico Hulkenberg to join Sauber in 2013

After the departure of Sergio Perez to McLaren, the Sauber team have confirmed that Nico Hulkenberg is to join the squad in 2013.

This is the third team that Hulkenberg will race for within three years of Grand Prix racing. He was ditched by Williams after the 2010 season in place for a pay driver, then spent a year in the wilderness, as reserve driver for Force India. He moved up to second driver for the team in 2012.

The highlight of Hulkenberg’s career so far has been his shock pole position in Brazil 2010. He was upped his game in the second half of this season, with a 4th placed finish in Belgium, and three points-scoring finishes in a row up to and including India.

The young German has signed a 1-year contract with the team. Sauber stated that they would confirm Hulkenberg’s teammate at a later stage.

This move has intensified the battle for the second Sauber drive. Kamui Kobayashi’s position is under serious threat, with Robert Frijns , Jules Bianchi, Jaime Alguersuari and Adrian Sutil all gunning for a place on the grid next year.

Maldonado penalised for impeding Hulkenberg in Q1

Pastor Maldonado will drop to 6th on the grid for the Belgian Grand Prix.

The Williams driver was docked 3 places for impeding Nico Hulkenberg in Q1 of qualifying today. While Hulkenberg made it through to Q2, the stewards found that he had unnecessarily held up the Force India.

The stewards report appears to be pretty clear on the matter:

“The driver of car 18 [Maldonado] was warned by his team not to hold up car 12 
[Hulkenberg] which was behind him, yet he clearly did impede car 12.

However as car 12 continued into Q2 a more severe penalty was not considered 
appropriate.”

With this, Kimi Raikkonen moves up to 3rd on the grid, followed by Sergio Perez and Fernando Alonso.

Raikkonen was initially under investigation for cutting the Eau Rouge corners during both of his two laps of Q3. Although all 4 of his wheels were outside of the white line, the stewards noted that  “there was no advantage gained because the exit speed was shown to be slower than on other laps where the car did not leave the track.”

Force India shut out of qualifying TV coverage

Force India have experienced the nasty side of what is supposed to be a fair sporting event

Force India have experienced the nasty side of what is supposed to be a fair sporting event

As many viewers of the Bahrain Grand Prix qualifying session had noticed, the Force India team were completely isolated in terms of television coverage.

While Paul di Resta made it through to Q3, absolutely no shots of either Force India car were shown at all during the three qualifying sessions. During a certain point when only Di Resta and Nico Hulkenberg were out on track, the cameras focused on a Mercedes in the pits instead.

The team had pulled out of second practice yesterday, to alleviate employees’ fears of a repeat of the violence they were caught up in on Wednesday night.

Because of this, many have speculated that Bernie Ecclestone had ordered his FOM company – who organise and run the camerawork for all F1 events – to completely block the team out of today’s coverage.

A quote from Ecclestone only served to increase these calls:

"Nobody cares if someone is ninth or 11th. Only the people that are watching a 
particular team. I spoke to our people and they were more or less concentrating 
on who was going to be on pole, rather than somebody going to be 10th."
[Seems as if Bernie forgot that the cars in 9th and 11th were Fernando Alonso 
and Kimi Raikkonen"]

As well as this, MetroF1 correspondent Adam-Hay Nicholls had some worrying things to say on the incident over Twitter:

"Not the 1st time they've been instructed not to film a certain team"

[When asked what team was subject to a similar blackout] "All I'll reveal is 
that the name of the team no longer exists"

This was backed up by former FOM employee Nick Daman:

"When I worked for FOM it was well known that the punishment for stepping out 
of line was a TV Blackout ......"

What makes this incident so sickening is that Force India pulled out for the safety of their employees, not to take a stand against FOM or the Bahrain regime. It is understood that Ecclestone offered the team an armed escort back to the team hotel [provided they took part in FP2] but the team declined, opting to head home early.

Personally, I don’t know which is more worrying – that a team would be shut out for protecting its employees, or that this has been done before, and we haven’t noticed.

F1 2012 season opener preview

There’s only a few days to go until the Formula 1 season kicks off again – the off-season really does fly by.

But there’s no time to waste. With everyone gearing up for a much closer title fight this year, it’s time to take one last glance at the pack, and try to predict how the teams will fare in Melbourne:

Red Bull

Red Bull may well battle with McLaren for 2012

Red Bull may well battle with McLaren for 2012

Nobody can deny that Red Bull will be at the front this year – it’s almost a given.

However, that’s not to say that the Adrian Newey-designed RB8 will run away with the title again. The ban on exhaust-blown diffusers has cut their advantage to the other teams, and further restrictions on front wing flexibility put them under greater pressure over the winter.

Sebastian Vettel is still the team #1 after back-to-back world titles. While Mark Webber is gearing up to challenge his teammate, I don’t think the Australian is up to the challenge. The best indicator of Webber’s performance will be in Australia, where Mark has never finished higher than 5th. If he can break his streak of bad luck, then he may be in with a chance.

Still, I predict a Vettel pole position in Australia – after that nobody can be certain.

McLaren

The MP4-27 may well being McLaren back to winning ways

The MP4-27 may well being McLaren back to winning ways

Pre-season testing has indicated that the Woking squad are back in top form in 2012.

However, they have a mighty challenger in the form of Red Bull. Both teams have tested out radical innovations on their cars, and it is still unclear who possesses the faster car. While Red Bull appear to have good qualifying pace, McLaren have performed well in long-fuel runs, similar to the 2011 season.

Lewis Hamilton’s well-publicised problems from 2011 appear to be behind him. The Brit has admitted he spent many nights partying during the 2011 season, which may well explain his loss of focus. There’s no doubt that Lewis is a fantastically talented driver, but there is also no excuse for underperforming in 2012.

His teammate, Jenson Button, will be looking to capitalise on a relatively successful 2011 season, and is hoping to beat Lewis again. However, if Hamilton has tackled his personal issues, then there may well be a brilliantly tight battle between the two this year.

Ferrari

Ferrari are yet to understand their F2012

Ferrari are yet to understand their F2012

While the front two teams have already established themselves as title contenders before the season opener, Ferrari are still unsure as to their pace. How they react to their radical F2012 will be fascinating.

Fernando Alonso will continue to push the team – and the car – to the limits, and there is little doubt that Felipe Massa will be left trailing behind. Ferrari have a perfect team leader in Alonso, and Felipe’s #1 spot at the team (inherited in 2007) has been well and truly taken away from him.

With such a differing driver line-up, the constructor’s title is already out of reach for Ferrari. However, depending on how Ferrari react to developing their F2012, Alonso may challenge for the driver’s title later on.

Mercedes

Mercedes will be looking to challenge the top 3

Mercedes will be looking to challenge the top 3

If Ferrari even stumble, Mercedes appear poised to snatch 3rd place in the constructor’s table from them.

After two disappointing years following the Brawn GP fairytale, things appear to be coming together for Mercedes. Team principal Ross Brawn has assembled some of the sport’s finest engineers to work on the W03, which showed good pace in pre-season testing.

Despite his age, Michael Schumacher may still be a force to be reckoned with. Nico Rosberg meanwhile will be looking to take his first ever race victory – compared to Michael’s colossal 91 wins.

It is unlikely that the team can challenge for the titles this year, but nobody can fully rule them out. Starting the season at the front is absolutely crucial.

Lotus

Lotus will be looking to establish themselves

Lotus will be looking to establish themselves

With a new name and new driver line-up, Lotus are the midfield team to keep an eye out for.

The Enstone squad have one of the most exciting driver combinations on the grid – a former world champion and current GP2 title holder. It is more than likely that Kimi Raikkonen will assert himself as #1 in the team, but Romain Grosjean may well keep him on his toes.

What’s of more importance to the team is moving up the grid. After the frontal-exhaust disaster last year, the E20 appears to be much faster and more reliable, despite the chassis issue that ruled the team out of 4 testing days.

Like Mercedes, they are unlikely to make a massive jump up the grid, but I would be very surprised if Lotus were to finish any lower than 5th.

Force India

Force India are looking to stay on top of the midfield

Force India are looking to stay on top of the midfield

Lotus aren’t the only team looking to make progress in 2011. After several impressive performances last year, Force India will be looking to push their way to the top of the midfield.

Adrian Sutil has been ditched after 5 years of faithful service, and his F1 career appears to be over. He has been replaced by Nico Hulkenberg, who gets another shot in F1 after a good 2010 campaign with Williams.

The team have recently received a $32m cash injection from owner Vijay Mallya, so finances aren’t an issue. What the team want is a progressively faster car than last year – the VJM05 appears to be delivering so far.

Alongside Paul di Resta, this is another exciting driver line-up. This battle is much more difficult to call, but I think Di Resta will stay just on top.

Sauber

Sauber may struggle in 2012

Sauber may struggle in 2012

Another midfield team looking to make progress, Sauber may find themselves squeezed out this year.

While their driver line-up of Kobayashi and Perez is an impressive one, I fear the team has not kept up with the development of the rest of the grid. The team saw a massive slide in pace during the second half of 2011, and the loss of James Key was a massive blow.

With teams like Force India and Lotus looking to move up the grid, there may be no improvement from Sauber in 2012.

Toro Rosso

Ricciardo and Vergne will battle it out at Toro Rosso

Ricciardo and Vergne will battle it out at Toro Rosso

The latest batch of Sebastian Vettel wannabes are in, and look set to provide an exciting battle for 2012.

Jean-Eric Vergne and Daniel Ricciardo are in, ousting Sebastian Buemi and Jaime Alguersuari, who had well and truly overstayed their welcome. With little to no F1 experience (several races for HRT doesn’t do much for Ricciardo), we have no idea who will end up on top.

The STR7 looks solid, but doesn’t seem to be pushing the team up the order. Most of the focus this year will be on the driver pairing, to see can either of them join Vettel at Red Bull.

Williams

Williams look set for another dismal season

Williams look set for another dismal season

After a dismal 2011 season, it appears unlikely that Williams will recover this season.

The Fw34 has been disappointing in testing, frequently ending up at the back of the pack. Bruno Senna brings a fresh face to the team, but Pastor Maldonado stays on, and frequent readers of this site know how I feel about him.

They may prove me wrong, but I see little improvement for Williams this year.

Caterham

Caterham must make progress in 2012

Caterham must make progress in 2012

After two years stranded in F1′s no-man’s-land, Caterham will be looking to push forward and join the midfield.

Failure is not an option for this team – they have spent way too much money to continue to fall behind teams like Williams and Sauber. Unlike HRT and Marussia, Caterham invested financially according to where they thought they would finish in several years, not where they would end up in the beginning. Banking their future on FIA payouts is risky, but it’s been done in F1 before.

Vitaly Petrov replaces the direly slow Jarno Trulli, and may give Heikki Kovalainen a run for his money.

HRT

Another season at the back for HRT - but that's all that's needed

Another season at the back for HRT - but that's all that's needed

After finally turning a wheel before the opening race for the first time in their history, HRT have made ever so slight progress towards stability – albeit at the back of the grid.

With the oldest driver line-up on the grid, the team will be sorely lacking in pace. However, the most important thing for the team is that they stay afloat – many new teams collapse within the first two years, particularly back in the 1990s.

A neat livery may gain them some fans, but otherwise it’s business as usual at the back of the pack. They may struggle to reach the 107% rule in the opening rounds.

Marussia

Marussia will be looking to beat HRT

Marussia will be looking to beat HRT

After finishing last yet again, Marussia will be looking to pull themselves ahead of HRT in the standings in 2012.

Rookie Charles Pic will find it most difficult, having little to no experience of the MR01 before Melbourne. I would be surprised if he were to survive the 107% chop in Q1.

Timo Glock, after proving his worth against all his teammates so far, deserves better than to be languishing in 23rd place all year, and the future of the team may well rest in his hands. No pressure, of course.

 

Of course, all of these predictions could fly out the window by the first corner in Melbourne! Either way, it’s looking set to be another fantastic season of Formula 1. I’ll be here to cover it every step of the way.

Barcelona testing day 2: Hulkenberg puts Force India on top

Nico Hulkenberg led proceedings for the second day of testing

Nico Hulkenberg led proceedings for the second day of testing

Force India’s new driver Nico Hulkenberg topped the timesheets for the second day of testing at the Circuit de Catalunya.

The German, who clocked a 1:22.608 put the VJM05 0.04 seconds ahead of Sergio Perez for Sauber. Sebastian Vettel had an entertaining on-track duel with Lewis Hamilton for a few laps, before finishing 3rd.

Fernando Alonso was 4th, and was still cagey on delivering a verdict on the F2012, saying the team had plenty of work still to do. Daniel Ricciardo caused two red flags, only setting 50 laps en route to 5th place.

Both on long-fuel runs, Lewis Hamilton and Vettel duelled on track for several minutes, with Sebastian eventually being allowed through. Lewis ended the session 6th.

At the back of the field, Valtteri Bottas got his first taste of the Williams FW34, setting 117 laps on his first day. Behind him, Vitaly Petrov and Charles Pic were the slowest of today’s testers.

Times from Barcelona day 2:

1.  Nico Hulkenberg    Force India VJM05    1:22.608   112 Laps
2.  Sergio Perez       Sauber C31           1:22.648   85 Laps    +0.040
3.  Sebastian Vettel   Red Bull RB8         1:22.891   104 Laps   +0.283
4.  Fernando Alonso    Ferrari F2012        1:23.180   87 Laps    +0.572
5.  Daniel Ricciardo   Toro Rosso STR7      1:23.639   50 Laps    +1.031
6.  Lewis Hamilton     McLaren MP4-27       1:23.806   120 Laps   +1.198
7.  Nico Rosberg       Mercedes W03         1:24.555   82 Laps    +1.947
8.  Valtteri Bottas    Williams FW34        1:25.738   117 Laps   +3.130
9.  Vitaly Petrov      Caterham CT01        1:26.605   69 Laps    +3.997
10. Charles Pic        Virgin MVR-02        1:27.343   108 Laps   +4.735

First impressions from 2012 Jerez testing

Ferrari have made headlines with their F2012 already

Ferrari have made headlines with their F2012 already

As the first of 4 pre-season tests draw to a close, we are beginning to form an idea of how the grid might shape out this year. Several news stories have also added interest to the speculation, as teams try to hold their cards close to their chests.

Here is the summary of news and events from testing so far:

Ferrari doubtful over pace?

Despite Fernando Alonso leading the timesheets on day 4 of testing, the Ferrari team are remaining quiet on whether their car can compete against Red Bull. Felipe Massa refused to clarify how he felt on the F2012, and technical director Pat Fry said the team still had lots of work to do:

"I am not happy with where we are at the moment. There is a lot of room for us 
to improve. Reliability-wise it is good. Performance-wise I think we are okay.

But we can play around with the performance and improve the car in some corners, 
and some particular parts of the corner. But I would not say I am happy yet until 
we get the whole thing working."

Force India feeling positive

Meanwhile, the Force India team are very happy with their progress over the winter.

Targeting 5th place in this year’s championship, their VJM05 appears to have a solid baseline for the team to build on. After missing a day of testing due to Jules Bianchi’s mishap, Nico Hulkenberg was happy with their progress:

"The long runs were useful for that and it also allowed me to start understanding 
the new tyres. There is still a massive amount to learn and lots of data to look 
at, but it feels like we have a good baseline to develop from and I’m pleased with 
how the day went."

HRT to miss testing again?

HRT’s embarrassing 3-year drought of not setting a single lap in testing looks set to continue, as the F112 (more than likely the car’s name) failed the mandatory FIA crash tests last week.

This year, a new regulation forces the teams to have passed the 17 crucial crash tests before the car can take part in testing. However, HRT’s car only passed 14 of these. Reports suggest that the car failed the roll hoop and lateral nose tests by “a minor margin”.

However, this still means that the car will not be ready for the second test in Barcelona. While the team are still aiming to turn a wheel before the first race in Melbourne, it is not an encouraging sign for the fledgling team.

Until the new car passes crash tests, Pedro de la Rosa will continue to drive last year’s F111.

McLaren and Ferrari exhausts declared legal

After the reactive ride height controversy last month, the FIA’s Charlie Whiting has approved exhaust layouts designed by Ferrari and McLaren.

A ban on exhaust blown diffusers this year forced teams to make their exhaust outlets visible from above, and have no influence on the performance of the diffuser. However, other teams in the paddock were worried that Ferrari and McLaren had found a way to manipulate exhaust gases to benefit other aero sections of the car.

While this would appear to be against technical regulations, Whiting has given the green light to both teams. According to Sky Sport’s Ted Kravitz, this will prompt more aggressive exhaust designs for other teams in the Barcelona tests:

"I understand from sources in the pit lane that FIA Race Director Charlie Whiting 
has told the teams that he considers Ferrari and McLaren exhaust designs as legal.

Even though the way those two teams have packaged their exhaust outlets, with 
channels leading exhaust gases out to specific areas of the car and therefore 
appearing to have a beneficial aero effect, which is against new exhaust regulations, 
it seems Whiting believes that they comply sufficiently with both the letter and the 
intention of the law.

This has been accepted by the other teams, who launched with less aggressive exhaust 
concepts and it means that they will now effectively green light their own, shall we 
say more exotic, exhaust designs.

We can expect to see these in time for the third test in Barcelona, if not before."

 

Force India release VJM05

Force India take the wraps off the VJM05

Force India take the wraps off the VJM05

Force India are the third team to show off their 2012 car – the VJM05.

The car was shown to the press at the Silverstone circuit, where it was given its first laps by Paul di Resta.

The car incorporates the new nosecone design similar to Caterham, and heavily redesigned sidepods. The “blade” roll hoop has been dropped in favour of the more conventional design.

The livery has been changed again, with partial owners Sahara now featured prominently on the side of the car.

Technical director Andy Green called the VJM05 a “big departure” from the 2011 version:

We’ve got a new front wing which sets up all the basic structures along the car 
and it’s a big step for us. It took us quite a long time and to go away from how 
perhaps we traditionally worked. The package is a big departure from what we’ve 
done before and the wind tunnel numbers are really encouraging and we’re looking 
forward to getting it on the track and seeing if it does produce what it should do.

The loss of the blown-exhaust is a bigger effect than lowering the nose. Massively 
bigger. We were quite late with extracting what we could from our diffuser last 
year and I don’t think it reached its potential by a long way. There were teams 
out there who extracted way more than we did. Hopefully it will hurt them more 
this year than it will us.

We spent the winter trying to salvage all the downforce we lost and I think we’ve 
got close. My feeling is that it should close the field up. You only have to look 
at Silverstone last year to see what effect it had."

The team have stated that their intention is to finish 5th in the constructors’ championship.

Suspended jail sentence and fine for Sutil after Lux assault

Adrian Sutil has been given an 18-month suspended sentence in a German court today, after assaulting CEO of Genii Capital Eric Lux last year.

The incident occurred in a nightclub in Shanghai after the Chinese Grand Prix in 2011, and Sutil was alleged to have assaulted Lux with a champagne glass. Adrian’s counter-claim was that he only meant to spill his drink over the CEO.

Genii Capital are the owners of Lotus (Renault), and since the incident Lux has reportedly chased Sutil for an apology and financial reimbursement for the 9-inch cut to Eric’s neck. On the other hand, Adrian has claimed that Lux made “strange offers” involving “a lot of money” as long as he volumtarily left the sport. He also claimed:

"He [Eric Lux] threatened me with 'destroying' me and ensuring that I go to prison 
for a long time."

Today Adrian was handed a suspended sentence along with a €200,000 fine for causing grievous bodily harm to the Genii boss. Lewis Hamilton was due to testify as a witness for Sutil (as he was in the nightclub during the incident), but was unable to make it to the trial.

Sutil is currently out of a drive for this season, having been replaced by Nico Hulkenberg at Force India.

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