In their latest guise, Force India took to the Australian grid earlier this year in a shower of glitz, glamour and gutsy goals. Eight months later, and very few of the goals have been met, but that doesn’t mean Force India have endured a bad year, far from it. In fact, the back-row minnows have, at times, looked pretty healthy in terms of pace. Unfortunately to the throng of fans the world over, the occasional upturn in pace doesn’t make a season, but things aren’t looking too bad for the Silverstone-based squad.
The mood before the season start in Australia was one of buoyancy and optimism, but the team were well aware of their uphill struggle to rejuvenate the failed Spyker project and despite the anticipation, team owner Vijay Mallya did his best to quell expectation and potential results. The testing of Ralf Schumacher and Giancarlo Fisichella was certainly welcomed publicity though, only topped by the statement issued by the former Toyota, Williams and Jordan driver that the test was only in kindness to Toyota’s former sponsor when Schumacher failed to get the drive.
Instead, it was Renault refugee Fisichella who claimed the second seat alongside Adrian Sutil and although the Italian had been outclassed by Fernando Alonso and then Heikki Kovalainen in preceding seasons, the experience of the former Jordan race winner was surely enough to boost confidence in the team. However, testing was very trying for the squad and expectation for 2008 was kept to a minimum.
The start of the year was nothing spectacular and Force India started to rack up a few retirements; some from mechanical failure, some from silly driver errors. On occasion, both Fisichella and Sutil found themselves caught up in other driver’s accidents, but it should be noted they also created some all on their own. With the reasonably powerful Ferrari engine though, Force India were hopeful and the goal set by the team to get out of Q1 quickly became a potential reality. Race pace may have been lacking, but qualifying wasn’t going too badly.
From the offset the squad appeared to have good pace in qualifying and Fisichella in particular enjoyed a spate of 16th place grid slots. However, the elusive extra tenth or two proved hard to find and the goal wasn’t realised until Italy. In difficult circumstances which saw Sebastian Vettel take his and Scuderia Toro Rosso’s maiden pole, Giancarlo thumped his VJM01 into a fine twelfth place. Unfortunately, Fisichella couldn’t convert the grid slot into a race result as an incident with Coulthard damaged his front wing. Moments later Fisichella found himself in the barriers, the wing damaged enough to cause the end of his race.
Fisichella’s battle with some of the sport’s leading drivers in Italy wasn’t the only time the Force Indias punched above their weight this year though, and team mate Adrian Sutil also put in some sterling drives in the sister car. Monaco will perhaps be forever etched in the German’s mind as the day he went from hero to zero through little fault of his own.
Quickly becoming a bit of a master around the principality, Sutil revelled in the tricky wet conditions at Monaco and found himself in fourth as the race drew to a close. Unfortunately, an error from the chasing Kimi Raikkonen resulted in the Ferrari slamming in to the back of the similarly powered Force India. Sutil retired and was seen disconsolate in the garage.
For Force India, I believe 2008 was a good year. They may have failed to score any points, but the team and the fans knew it was an uphill struggle. Force India have experienced difficulties and made some errors. But the squad’s vision of the future, combined with funding from Mallya’s companies and a possible alliance with McLaren could see the back-row minnows move forward. The Indian-flavoured team have passion, certainly more than Midland or Spyker had in year’s previous, and with this they can at least hope to move off the bottom of the tables. Sutil has reminded us again this year that he is no slouch and given the right mix of conditions, set up and luck, he can put his car in places it probably shouldn’t be.
Fisichella on the other hand has been slightly embarrassed again; his team mate proving to be a good match for the experienced race winner. Being out-qualified eight times by a pilot with 177 less race starts under his belt is not something Giancarlo should shrug off lightly. However, Fisichella’s strength lies with bonding the team together, providing quality feedback and using his wealth of knowledge to aspire the squad into believing they can do it. With a good car, these two drivers could score some regular points.
Undoubtedly, we’ll be watching the possible collaboration with McLaren closely, especially if the rules regarding customer cars are relaxed. Although it won’t come to much if Mercedes are unable to deliver the engines to the team’s headquarters because of a playful Eddie Jordan.
|Australian Grand Prix Albert Park||(17) Retired||(19) Retired|
|Malaysian Grand Prix Sepang||(17) 12||(20) Retired|
|Bahrain Grand Prix Sakhir||(18) 12||(20) 19|
|Spanish Grand Prix Circuit de Catalunya||(19) 10||(20) Retired|
|Turkish Grand Prix Istanbul Park||(19) Retired||(20) 16|
|Monaco Grand Prix Monte Carlo||(20) Retired||(19) Retired|
|Canadian Grand Prix Circuit Gilles Villeneuve||(17) Retired||(16) Retired|
|French Grand Prix Magny Cours||(18) 18||(19) 19|
|British Grand Prix Silverstone||(20) Retired||(19) Retired|
|German Grand Prix Hockenheim||(20) 16||(19) 15|
|Hungarian Grand Prix Hungaroring||(18) 15||(20) Retired|
|European Grand Prix Valencia||(18) 14||(20) Retired|
|Belgian Grand Prix Spa Francorchamps||(20) 17||(18) 13|
|Italian Grand Prix Monza||(12) Retired||(20) 19|
|Singapore Grand Prix Singapore||(20) 14||(19) Retired|
|Japanese Grand Prix Fuji Speedway||(20) Retired||(19) Retired|
|Chinese Grand Prix Shanghai||(20) 17||(19) Retired|
|Brazilian Grand Prix Interlagos||(19) 18||(20) 16|
|Driver’s Championship Position||(0pts) 19th||(0pts) 20th|
|Constructor’s Championship Position||(0pts) 10th|
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