Tag Archives: Force India

The 2009 F1 Review- Toro Rosso, Force India and Renault

Force India, Toro Rosso and Renault were often backmarkers in 2009

Force India, Toro Rosso and Renault were often backmarkers in 2009

As the Formula 1 2010 season is 69 days away, I decided to do a comprehensive review of all the teams’ performances last year, and look at their prospects for 2010. This review will be done in 5 parts. 4 of these will be groups of last year’s teams, and the last will be dedicated to the newcomers. This article is for the bottom 3 finishers last year: Toro Rosso, Force India and Renault.

After the highs of 2008, Toro Rosso were always going to fall. First of all, they inevitably lost Sebastian Vettel to Red Bull. Also, because of the drastic new regulations, the “satellite” team couldn’t take last year’s Red Bull technical data and use it themselves. The result was that the two drivers, Sebastian Buemi and Sebastien Bourdais, could not be competitive. However, the car was not enough of an excuse for Bourdais, who was outperformed by rookie team-mate Buemi, then dropped after Germany.

His replacement, Jaime Alguersuari, didn’t embarress himself, but didn’t impress either. A good first race in Hungary ahead of Buemi was promising, but his best result after that was 14th.  Buemi was actually quite good throughout the season, as two 7th and two 8th place finishes got him a handful of points, which isn’t bad at all for his debut season. In a few years time, I’d like to see him improve and get to a better team. The team itself, unfortunately, will always be dominated by parent team and owner Red Bull. The team is currently up for sale, and I’m hoping for a good privateer to take hold.  Paul Stoddart…. now there’s a good idea!

13 points, on paper, doesn’t sound like much for Force India. However, they were rated as the most improved teams in many places, and I agree with this. They got their first ever points (and podium) in Belgium, after a masterful pole position from sudden hero Giancarlo Fisichella. But, a lot of this was down to the car being crushingly fast in low-downforce circuits. This was shown perfectly when, after 2 consecutive finishes in the points (one apiece for Fisi and Sutil, in Belgium and Italy), they suddenly slumped in the high-downforce Singapore. They were not to make a comeback after that.

So, the car performed brilliantly- twice. But Adrian Sutil’s crashes and accidents cost them of even more points, at China and Germany. Both were very avoidable, although I wouldn’t be too harsh on him for the China crash- it was extreme wet weather conditions. Still, he must prove he has the ability to get a better drive. Or, if next year’s Force India is as good as I’m hoping it to be, he could get his top drive there.

Fisichella's pole position and P2 finish was enough to get Force India's first points, and got Fisi his dream drive at Ferrari

Fisichella's pole position and P2 finish was enough to get Force India's first points, and got Fisi his dream drive at Ferrari

Utter disaster are the words I first thought of when I reviewed Renault’s season in my mind. It’s not hard to see why:  Awful car, underperforming second drivers, and crash-gate. Fernando Alonso was the only reason the team got any points at all, getting 26 points to prove why he is always world-class. Nelson Piquet Jr, on the other hand, isn’t. His sacking after Hungary initiated a series of events which resulted in the truth of Singapore 2008 come to light. Because of this race-fixing scandal, Piquet was disgraced, and Pat Symonds and Flavio Briatore were thrown out of F1. Good riddance. So where is Piquet now? Testing NASCAR pickup trucks….. nice.

His replacement, Romain Grosjean, was no better. A 13th place finish was his best result in a sluggish car. Alonso’s single podium finish in Singapore was the best result for the team all year. The team’s focus was switched to their 2010 car about halfway through the 2009 season, so hopefully they can improve. Robert Kubica, their currently only confirmed driver for next year, should help this. The team’s future was only secured in December, when Genii Capital secured a 75% stake in the team.The team have recently said that they are aiming to be championship contenders again by 2011, so let’s wait and see.

Interview with JR Hildebrand

JR HildebrandJR Hildebrand was pleased with the second day of testing at Jerez, despite only finishing tenth. Here is an interview with formula1.com, about how he got on:
Q: JR, you’ve had your first taste of a Formula One car. What were your first impressions the VJM02?
JR Hildebrand: I was really impressed with the ability of the car. It is different in every way to what I’m used to, both in terms of the outright speed, but also in terms of the characteristics of the car and how it behaves, brakes and drives through corners. Having raced on ovals I’m used to a high top speed, so that wasn’t too much of a shock, but the amount of load it runs and how much speed you can carry through the corner took some getting used to. I felt I was getting there and was starting to get the most out of the car, particularly towards the end of the morning.

Q: Did the work you have done in the simulator help you?
JH: I’ve been in the ‘sim’ two times and it definitely helped to understand the basics of what to expect and at least know the track layout. Having never driven the circuit before and also having no prior experience of a car like this, it still took a couple of runs to get used to everything, but as the track improved over the morning we were right there, so I felt as prepared as I could have been. We’ll look at the data now and see what I can do to get better.

Q: What did your programme involve on Tuesday?
JH: It was a little bit tough initially. The track was clearly improving throughout the morning, so based on the program we were running, in terms of relative pace we were doing pretty well. I think we still had some free time in the car. We ran through the different tyre compounds and I felt I could still get quite a bit of time from the car. I lost my best lap by using a bit too much of the road and on my last run I just flat spotted the tyres straight out of the pits, which made a drastic difference in how good the car was and I really couldn’t get the ultimate lap time from it.

Q: Were you pleased with how it went though?
JH: It was a little bit frustrating from the standpoint of losing the last two runs, but we were fifth quickest when my day was effectively done so I was pretty happy with my first outing. I was able to improve throughout the morning and up at the top of the charts at points so it gives me a lot to work to be getting on with in the next couple of days.

Q: And physically how was it? A lot of new drivers often take some time to get up to full fitness, particularly in the neck.
JH: Driving definitely gives a bit of pain in the neck, but I didn’t have any major issues. My neck was a little bit sore but I’m not sure that anyone else here is going to be able to say much different! It’s just something that I will look to work on in the future but I am not sure I could have done anything else to help with the fitness. I felt quite prepared.

Q: And what are the goals for Wednesday and the rest of the test?
JH: We have a pretty structured test programme. Everyone is on different run programmes throughout the week, with different tyres and weights and also some 2010 preparation so it is hard to tell where we are relative to other teams. I will just try to focus on what we are doing and not worry too much about anyone else. I’ll also try to give the engineers as much feedback as I can as this is what they are looking for in the long term, while trying to wrap my head around what I need to do to get the most out of the car.

Q: Have you approached the test any differently to an IndyCar or Indy Lights test?
JH: It is roughly the same process but, just because of the nature of the car, we are talking about different things and about making different changes. I’ve had to learn what’s more critical to report back and what the team needs to know from me. I’ve found that transition to be fairly seamless.

Q: What’s been the most challenging aspect?
JH: The high speed cornering of the car is just phenomenal so getting used to the speed and how much I can carry into the corner, specifically into the high speed corners, is probably where I can improve the most. I looked at the data throughout the day and I’ve picked up some time so far and have just started to be in a pretty good range. I feel in terms of braking and low speed, technical parts of the circuit, I will also find some speed now, especially with the track improving. I’m looking forward to getting back into the car.

Force India retain Sutil and Liuzzi for 2010

Force India have announced that they have retained Adrian Sutil and Vitantonio Liuzzi for the 2010 season. The team believes that this will give consistency in their driver line-up.

2010 will be Sutil’s fourth season in F1. He started in 2006 with Force India’s predecessors, Midland, as a test/reserve driver. He then went to a race seat with Spyker for 2007.

“2010 will be my fourth consecutive year with the team,” said Sutil. “I feel good here, it feels like family, and when you feel at ease you can focus your energy 100 percent on getting it right on track. Next season I want to be in the points on a regular basis, maybe even challenging for the podium, and the team has exactly the same goals. We are going massively in the right direction so with our combined energies I’m confident we can achieve even more than last season.”

Tonio has kept his seat since his move up from test driver in Monza this year, when Giancarlo Fisichella moved to Ferrari. He had made his debut in 2005 for Red Bull, and moved to Toro Rosso for 2006 and 2007.  He then moved to being test driver for Force India for 2008.

Tonio said, “It was always my goal to be back racing in 2010 and I’ve finally achieved it. I feel the five races I did in 2009 were a bit of a warm-up; get back racing, learn the car, get the feeling back. Now I’ve done that I feel ready to really push next season. We were pretty strong in the last part of the 2009 season so if we pick up where we stopped I think we could be in for a good year. For sure points are the aim and showing everyone what we can do.”

Dr Vijay Mallya, chairman and team principal of Force India, stated, “We are very pleased to retain the services of both Adrian and Tonio for another season. We have always maintained that consistency is key at this stage in the team’s development and for the first time in many years we will have the continuity of not only the same drivers, but also the same engine and senior management. With this stability now in place I truly believe we have an excellent platform to build on and move forward on our strong 2009 performance. I am sure we have one of the most dynamic line-ups on the grid and I hope this will stand us in good stead in what we all hope will be a transitional year for the team.”

However, the role of third driver has not been announced yet. Next week, Force India will hold a young driver test, featuring Paul di Resta and current Indy Lights champion JR Hildebrand. The test will be three days long, and will be held on the Jerez circuit starting next Tuesday.

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