It almost seems an age since Jordan were gracing the circuits of the world, running around in their yellow liveries and sparking passion in many fans lining the track. Which is odd, considering it was only three years ago. Since then though, the team has change hands on a seemingly regular basis, the music stopping this time with Vijay Mallya. The Indian billionaire has bought and re-branded the team into Force India, and one difference from his efforts so far in comparison to his predecessors, is that he appears to mean business.
Gone once again is the Dutch orange of Spyker, the Force India squad being launched in Mumbai with a white and gold livery, highlighting many new sponsors on the largely unchanged car. However, despite the VJM01 being little more than an updated F8-VII from 2007, the team have already stated that this campaign will be one of transition. The squad are apparently already beginning to work on the 2009 machine.
Looking at the driver pairing alone, it seems almost strange that the Force India team have more experience than McLaren at the top of the grid, and Scuderia Toro Rosso, their nearest rivals. Adrian Sutil has been retained, as expected, in the second seat, and ready to start his second season in Formula One. The German showed promise in 2007, driving at times above his expectations and showing then team mate Christijan Albers a thing or two. In fact, so much is his potential the rookie was linked to the second McLaren seat for much of November and December. However, Adrian had a contract for this year and while I’m sure he would have defected had the opportunity arisen, McLaren went with Heikki Kovalainen in the end. But to be considered highlights what many of us think; he’s actually quite talented.
Sutil will have a team mate from which he can learn from in 2008 as well, an experienced race winner who should, hopefully, prove his critics wrong. Renault refugee Giancarlo Fisichella joined the team after a successful test session where he once again demoralised Ralf Schumacher. The time around it was in the same car, sort of, in 1997. Back then Fisichella and Schumacher were beginning their first full seasons in Formula One, and despite a few wheel-banging moments, Giancarlo proved he had a lot more talent than Ralf. However, it was the German who went on to successive wins in the Williams while Fisichella remained in the midfield having made a series of poor decisions. With Renault, his fortunes appeared to change, but his dominance of team mates came to an abrupt end as Fernando Alonso powered to two championships. Fisichella could only power himself to two victories.
But with Force India Giancarlo has a chance to redeem himself and help build a team for the future. Fisichella’s unquestionable ability to develop a car is something the Force really needed and must utilise. Although the VJM01 remains largely unchanged from 2007, it wasn’t an absolutely terrible car. And at a recent test Fisichella even manged to place it in fourth after a days running. For sure the lap was set on low-fuel, but the times posted by the midfield have been very closely packed over the winter, and it would appear that a tenth gained here and there could make all the difference.
The team have said they will develop the 2008 car over the season, but it does seem certain that they are almost writing off this year’s campaign as one of transition. Vijay Mallya appears to be here for the long haul, and to start work towards 2009 is a wise move if he wants to bridge the gap to Red Bull, Honda and Toyota.
Only time will tell if Force India can really improve and move off the back row of the grid. But one thing is for certain: The team finally look as though they have their spirit back, and hopefully that spirit will lead them to a handful of points in 2008.
A difficult year for Force India, but one that was expected. The team will largely fight Super Aguri and Scuderia Toro Rosso at the back, but they will be able to collect a few points during wet weather races. Adrian Sutil will have another point-less year with Giancarlo Fisichella hauling in little more than four or five.