Force India has finally unveiled its 2011 challenger – dubbed the VJM04 – to the F1 public ahead of the upcoming pre-season test at the Jerez circuit.Force India VJM04 (above)

The team opted for a web-based launch, which eventually happened after a few website glitches were resolved.

The team has set the ambitious aim of finishing at least fifth in the Constructors’ Championship standings in 2011, with the outfit also targeting some visits to the podium.

“Last year we finished a strong seventh – and we were sixth for most of the season,” said the team’s CEO Otmar Szafnauer.

“We are targeting fifth place in the championship – and in order to do that we have to score points from the beginning and then all the way through to the end. To do that, we need strong development during the year – and if all goes well, then perhaps even a podium finish or two is an aim.”

While team enjoyed its best-ever season in its overall points tally – 68 points in 2010 to 13 in 2009 – one must factor in changes to the points scoring system. One must also consider the absence of Toyota from the 2010 season, as well as the poor performance of the Sauber team at the start of last year, although the Swiss outfit was proving quicker than Force India by the end of the year.

The team’s results from the last two seasons were six points’ finishes in 2009 (including that podium in Belgium), in contrast to fifteen points’ finishes in 2010, but never higher than fifth. This would certainly indicate that the 2010 car was more reliable than its predecessor, but not necessarily as quick.

Visually, the car appears little different from its predecessor – “A lot of it is subtle,” insisted the team’s new technical director, Andy Green – with the most evident changes being the switch from a conventional engine air intake to a Team Lotus-styled ‘blade’ solution that was first pioneered (and then abandoned) by Mercedes GP last year.

This car has largely been designed by the team’s outgoing technical head, Mark Smith, before he joined Team Lotus during the off-season and handed over to Green.

The VJM04 houses the McLaren gearbox ad hydraulics, while the team also announced a further development of its technology relationship with McLaren Applied Technologies, to include the supply of more parts as well as the use of the team’s simulator at its Woking headquarters.

The outfit has retained the same livery scheme encompassing the Indian national colours, and effectively kept the same sponsor portfolio of companies owned by team boss Vijay Mallya’s giant corporate empire.

One new addition are stickers from the Vladivar vodka distillery, which is owned by the White & Mackay brewery, which is itself owned by Mallya’s United Breweries empire (it also has its own logos showing for the first time).

This is particularly interesting, and again leads us to question why – aside from TATA and the Jaypee Group – corporate India is seemingly reluctant to invest some sponsorship dollars in the sport, particularly given its popularity growth in the subcontinent and the inaugural Indian Grand Prix happening towards the end of the season.

Furthermore, that the team itself is seemingly unable to secure sponsorship from corporations outside the Mallya umbrella is another question that may remain unanswered for the time being.

And speaking of unanswered questions, there is still no word on the settlement it has agreed with Vitantonio Liuzzi, who was sacked by the outfit in favour of Paul di Resta despite holding  a valid contract to race in 2011.

[Original image via GP Update]

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Richard Bailey

Founder & Chief Editor at MotorsportM8
Hasn't missed a Grand Prix since 1989. Has a soft spot for Minardi. Tattooed with 35+ Grand Prix circuits.