|Force India Mercedes
Aside from Brawn GP’s fairytale championship victory, the incredible rise of Force India was one of the the feel-good stories in the 2009 season. The team emerged from the realms of F1’s cellar dwellers to genuine race-winning contenders in the space of just a few short months, and showed that a privateer team could still mix it with the major manufacturers of the sport.
As ever with Formula 1, getting to the top is hard enough, but it’s staying there that’s the real nightmare. With stability at its core, it appears well-placed to do that in 2010.
When the Indian business empire owner Dr Vijay Mallya took over the team from its previous Spkyer guise, he set himself and the team the lofty ambition of finishing on the podium by the 2011 season. At the time, few would have believed that this would be possible, let alone being able to achieve it two years ahead of schedule.
Having picked up a stunning pole position, Giancarlo Fisichella shadowed the eventual victor, Kimi Raikkonen, for the entire race.
The team’s 2009 challenger, the VJM02, flew on the flowing, low-downforce circuits, but was generally buried in the lower midfield on the higher-downforce circuits,
Entering its second year of its technical collaboration with McLaren, the team needs to eradicate that inconsistency and become a more consistent points threat.
Some management changes have occurred during the off-season, and James Key’s departure from the Technical Directorship role to switch to Sauber is a big loss for the team. Nonetheless, at the wheel of his VJM03 design, the team has retained Adrian Sutil and Vitantonio Liuzzi, who capably stood in at Fisichella’s seat when the Roman made the high-profile switch to Ferrari after his historic podium.
Testing times have suggested that the team is operating in the midfield, amlong the likes of Williams, Renault, Sauber and Toro Rosso.
With the drivers, Adrian Sutil will need to step up and demonstrate much greater consistency: improve his dry-weather form to match his exceptional ability in the wet, and cut out those mistakes that seem to blight his results.
For Vitantonio Liuzzi, staying on for a full season represents a second chance at F1 after his underwhelming stint with Toro Rosso in 2006-7. With test driver Paul di Resta watching from the sidelines and waiting for his opportunity, Tonio will need to up his game and prove he is worthy of a seat beyond 2010.
- Having now proven they can mix it with the big boys, the team is more motivated than ever to achieve bigger and better things in 2010.
- Two hungry drivers in the line-up, each desperate to achieve consistency in their form and out-perform the other.
- That Mercedes engine in the back remains one of the best powerrplants in the paddock.
- The departure of Technical Director James Key; has a suitable replacement been appointed, and will this disrupt development of the VJM03?
- The VJM02, this year’s predecessor, was inconsistent in its performance band, and only worked well on low-downforce circuits. Can the new car provide greater consistency.
- Sutil was often an accident waiting to happen, and got involved in far too many scrapes last season.
What defines success in 2010?
- Consistently compete in the midfield pack and achieve at least another podium finish.