The Force India team took the wraps off its Mercedes-powered VJM11 challenger on the morning of the first day of Formula 1 pre-season testing at Barcelona.

The VJM11 was unveiled by the team’s technical director Andrew Green, who was joined by Otmar Szafnauer (COO) and main drivers Sergio Pérez and Esteban Ocon, who will partner for their second year together. The car will make its official track debut at the hands of test driver Nikita Mazepin, who is standing in for an unwell Nicholas Latifi.

The car features a slightly revised livery scheme compared to last year’s bold all-pink decal; existing sponsorship deals from BWT, Claro, Infinitum and TelCel, Hype and NEC remaining in place. Mexican petroleum brand PEMEX joined the team with logos on the VJM11’s wing mirrors, while new lubricants partner RAVENOL has its stickers on the car’s barge boards. Also joining the team’s portfolio of sponsors is the industrial engineering brand DUO, which has logos on the car’s rear crash structure.

Keen to keep its developments under wraps while also keeping an eye on rival teams, Green revealed that the launch specification of the VJM11 bears close resemblance to its predecessor, the VJM10.

“The DNA of the car is still very much that of last year’s car. We took the decision, quite a while ago, that the launch specification of the 2018 car would be based around our understanding of the 2017 car, but with all new structures required by the regulations in place,” he explained.

“It is a starting point, a good reference from which to introduce changes quite quickly; it gives our aerodynamics department more time to develop a car for the first race in Australia, rather than having to release parts early for testing.

Sahara Force India Mercedes VJM11 launch

The VJM11 – adorned with several new sponsors – was unveiled by Andy Green (chief technical officer), Nikita Mazepin (test driver), Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez (drivers) and Otmar Szafnauer (chief operating officer). Image via Sahara Force India.

Force India has finished fourth in the Constructors’ Championship for the last two seasons, a position that team principal Vijay Mallya expects to retain for a third year.

“I see no reason why we cannot consolidate our position and improve,” he said.

“Yes, Formula One is a very tough and competitive environment, but we are an established team with continuity in all areas of the company. We don’t take anything for granted, but we will be disappointed if we are not fighting for points at every race this year.”

The team was recently forced to deny rather wild speculation that it was set to be sold to a little-known energy drinks company. Despite insisting that it is not considering offers to sell the team, it is widely known that it is on the market as the Indian government continues to seek Mallya’s extradition from the UK to face multiple financial crimes charges.

With its connections to Mallya and jailed team co-owner Subrata Roy (the owner of the Sahara conglomerate) tainting the perception of the team, Szafnauer has confirmed that the squad will soon apply to change its official entry and chassis names.

Images via Sahara Force India F1 Team

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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.