By Joey Barnes, Editor-in-Chief
Sahara Force India put in one of the better performances last year, coming in fourth in the overall constructor’s standings. The Silverstone-based squad witnessed two podiums by Sergio Perez, who outpaced his very consistent teammate, Nico Hulkenberg. With Mercedes power still a part of its program and gradual progression year-to-year, it isn’t far off the groupthink that Force India could soon be a consistent challenger for podiums every race weekend.
|No. 11||Sergio Perez||(Mexico)|
|No. 31||Esteban Ocon||(France)|
|Team Principal / Co-Owner||Vijay Mallya|
|Chairman / Co-Owner||Subrata Roy Sahara|
|Deputy Team Principal||Robert Fernley|
|Chief Operating Officer||Otmar Szafnauer|
|Technical Director||Andrew Green|
Force India VJM10
Underdogs No More?
Gone is the previously mentioned Hulkenberg, who left to jump on with Renault after spending five of the past six seasons at Force India, including his time as a test driver in 2011. Perez remains with the team for a fourth consecutive campaign, but is joined by Mercedes junior driver Esteban Ocon. Despite just having nine starts to his Formula 1 career, Ocon impressed with several solid outings with the recently defunct Manor team – which included a 12th place effort in the rain tortured race that was the Brazilian Grand Prix.
In some ways, Ocon is an upgrade for the team, but it could prove short-lived should Mercedes want to promote him to the factory team in 2018 due to Valtteri Bottas not panning out this season.
The VJM10 came away from preseason testing in Barcelona with the Perez and Ocon scoring the 10th and 11th best times, respectively. The Vijay Mallya-led team also pushed out 785 total laps, good enough for fifth out of the 10 teams competing. Of note, Mercedes announced that everyone from its works team, to customers Force India and Williams, will get the latest specification engine for the season opener in Australia.
Is it realistic to think that Force India can crack the ‘Big Three’ of Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull? That is highly doubtful at the moment, but the addition of Ocon mixed with the right combination between power unit and chassis, could witness them seize fourth once again this season.
Look for Williams to once again be their greatest challengers. However, don’t discount a rivalry with Renault. Hulkenberg put the French squad close to his former team in preseason, in some cases ahead. There could very well be pride on the line this season should the two cross paths, of which Perez would absolutely need to uphold Force India to the challenge of ‘The Hulk’ and the Renault works team.
The old regulations saw Force India have tremendous pace at places like Baku and if there wasn’t a change a possible win wouldn’t be out of the question. However, the technical changes have happened and the season is a mystery until first practice gets underway. That said, challenging (and scoring a handful) of podiums would be a successful season, a win would stunning, but monumental should everything fall their way.
Under no circumstances should Force India fall out of the top five of the constructor’s standings, anything less would be a major setback and tragedy for everything they’ve built up to this point.