“Force India launch the VJM06”

Paul di Resta. © Sahara Force India
Paul di Resta. © Sahara Force India

A lone Paul di Resta lifted the covers off of the Force India VJM06 at Silverstone yesterday.

The Scottish racer heads into his third year with the Northamptonshire-based Indian squad; however the 26-year-old has yet to have a teammate cast.

The mid-table team have been plagued with financial difficulties for some time, with rumours of buy outs refusing to go away.

While team bosses Dr Vijay Mallya and Subrata Roy Sahara have battled hard to keep afloat, barely a day would pass without noises being made of Force India’s impending demise. Yet, this is not the tale of a back of the grid wonder like Marussia or the recently departed HRT – well, not any more at least.

Having finished 7th in the Constructors Championship last year (almost achieving an unlikely podium in Brazil {note 1}), only 17 points shy of Sauber and a clear 33 ahead of Williams, Force India should be a relatively steady ship, but the midlands-based team have been dogged by persistent problems and rumours.
A lack of significant monies arriving from external sources, insider sponsorship programmes {note 2}, an expensive engine agreement with Mercedes and a lack of businesses connected to the team (amongst other things) have given the impression that Mallya and Sahara over-extended themselves.

Formula One is a very expensive game to play and the Mallya / Sahara pairing are finding out the hard way how much it truly can cost; however their Formula One losses are almost small compared to the industrial disasters their respective non-motorsport entities are facing.
Only this week Force India announced two new sponsorship deals (with Chatham and TW Steel), but whether this is the start of their stabilisation or merely a positive blip remains to be seen.

On track, Force India endured a rather indifferent year in 2012 – so much so, it was easy to occasionally forget they were even competing. Too often mired on the periphery of the top ten ensured they rarely troubled the front-runners, but were also not slow enough to ever live in fear of being lapped.
Di Resta started the season very well, initially enjoying a racing edge over Nico Hulkenberg, who was returning after a tear out; however once the German racer found his stride he began to overshadow the Scot.
Where Hulkenberg is still showing signs of improvement, one can’t help but think that di Resta has plateaued somewhat and despite all the support he receives from UK audiences, di Resta has spent much of the last couple of years being not overly spectacular.

Having being burned once at the end of the 2010 season, Hulkenberg took no chances of being cut loose by a cash-strapped team and secured a drive with Sauber, while di Resta remained unconfirmed with Force India until just before the launch.
From the outside, it doesn’t appear to have dimmed the young man’s disposition. “Seeing the car built and complete for the first time is a special feeling. I’ve followed its progress in the tunnel and it looks very impressive aggressive and fast. Now I’m just eager to get out there and see where we stand compared to our competitors. After the winter I feel refreshed and keen to get back to business.”

Despite all of their problems, Technical Director Andrew Green has delivered a car that is completely new; a bold move for the team, but one that may help them breakout of their midfield lockdown – should the money be there for development.
“[The VJM06 is] a brand new car from the ground-up – everything is new. We discussed carrying over big chunks of last year’s car, including the chassis, but decided not to.
“There were still some gains to be had with the chassis, so we elected to take the performance benefits. However, the car is evolution rather than revolution compared with last year, simply because of the nature of the regulations.
“There are quite a few large changes under the skin. Because we focussed a lot on the tyres last year, we’ve given ourselves a few more options on set-up to help manage them from qualifying to the race. So that’s something we will focus on going into winter testing – we’ll be looking at those options and trying to understand them. It’s going to be a challenge assessing these during the cold winter tests, but those options will give the engineers more weapons in their armoury.
“The suspension has been tuned for what we learned on the tyres, so the configuration is different to last year with changes aimed at better complementing the tyres. The rear suspension is quite different – for aerodynamic reasons the whole thing has been lifted up to allow the airflow under the lower rear wishbones.

Force India will run at the opening test at Jerez next week with di Resta and sportscar racer James Rossiter.

Key personnel:
Managing Director: Dr Vijay Mallya
Chairman: Subrata Roy Sahara
Deputy Team Principal: Bob Fernley
Technical Director: Andrew Green
Chief Operating Officer: Otmar Szafnauer

{note 1}
Hulkenberg led the damp Brazilian Grand Prix for 30 laps before being taken by Hamilton in the mid-stages of the race. Attempting a repass in the first turn, the German clashed with Hamilton when the McLaren man was balked by a sluggish Caterham.

{note 2}
A solid number of the sponsors on the Force India machine – including Kingfisher and the United Breweries group – are primarily Mallya’s own companies.

© Sahara Force India.
© Sahara Force India.
© Sahara Force India.
© Sahara Force India.
© Sahara Force India.
© Sahara Force India.
© Sahara Force India.
© Sahara Force India.
© Sahara Force India.
© Sahara Force India.

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