Will Force India make a leap forward in 2009 after their McLaren deal?

Posted on

| Written by

There will be a lot of McLaren bits in the 2009 Force India

Force India’s technical tie-up with McLaren-Mercedes, which was rumoured for several weeks, was announced today.

Having used Ferrari engines in 2006 (as Spyker) and 2007, Force India is embarking on an ambitious project which will see them use the same gearbox, KERS, Mercedes engine and other parts as McLaren.

How will this massive acquisition of kit, which is supplied by the winners of the drivers’ championship, transform the fortunes of the team that ended 2008 point-less?

The scale of the deal between Force India and McLaren is interesting for technical, political and sporting reasons.

From a technical point of view it will give McLaren increased opportunity to test its Kinetic Energy Recovery System. Force India benefit because, having struggled with reliability this year (eight mechanical DNFs, more than any other team), they will now be able to use some of the most reliable equipment in the pit lane.

Politically the deal is interesting because the ‘everything but the kitchen sink’ arrangement is not unlike what McLaren came close to arranging with Prodive for 2008. The crucial difference is that Force India will not be using McLaren’s chassis. The agreement seems to have the blessing of the FIA – Vijay Malla said:

I would personally like to thank Bernie Ecclestone and FIA President Max Mosley, both of whom offered their assistance and support throughout the gestation of the deal.

The arrangement could be a new blueprint for how independent teams can ally with manufacturers in future to reduce their costs. Will Red Bull and Toro Rosso follow suit with a similar arrangement in future?

Finally the deal has a sporting dimension. Force India expect to be propelled up the grid in 2009 and challenge regularly for points. Mallya – whose ambitions regarding his team have been fairly restrained up to this point – is now talking about winning races in 2010 and getting a car on the podium at the inaugural Indian Grand Prix in 2011.

It remains to be seen whether Mallya is now beholden to McLaren in terms of driver choice. Although he announced last month he would retain Giancarlo Fisichella and Adrian Sutil for 2009, rumours have suggested McLaren testers Pedro de la Rosa and Paul di Resta (but not, it seems, Gary Paffett) could now become Force India racers in 2009.

What’s your take on the Force India-McLaren deal? Will Force India become regular points scorers in 2009? Will they change their driver line-up to suit McLaren’s preference?

2009 F1 season
2009 F1 drivers and teams

Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

Got a potential story, tip or enquiry? Find out more about RaceFans and contact us here.

38 comments on “Will Force India make a leap forward in 2009 after their McLaren deal?”

  1. If it’s anything like the Red Bull – Torro Rosso relationship we can look forward to Force India overtaking McLaren sometime after mid-season

  2. I think it is a great deal for both Force India and McLaren. Like you stated, it will help McLaren with test new components (cheeky way of getting around the testing regulations) and it will help Force India move up the grid with a better package deal than other customer and independent teams like Red Bull / Toro Rosso and even Williams currently have. I get the feeling they felt a little muffed after Toro Rosso did so well with basically the same engine.

    I do hope this is the way of the future for many new teams on the grid If say Lola and other notable chassis builder (come’on Lotus, would love you back!) want to get back into the sport; this might be a good way to do it. Also by pooling resources, like minded teams can save money and work together while keeping the FIA out of their pocketbooks and business. I bet that BMW, Toyota, and Honda would love a similar to help spread their costs a little bit with another team on the grid.

    Oh wait Honda had the chance but they blew it.

    The only trouble I can see if Force India beats McLaren like what happened to Ferrari this year with Toro Rosso, what will happen then? However, I don’t think we have to worry about that for a while. Also, I would like to see that teams are limited to one partner in order to ensure that not all the grid or large portions of the grid are on the same engine.

    All in all good news I believe.

  3. The acquisition looks to be a good thing, but it would have been even better if it had been done with Ferrari. As one would normally expect, a bunch of stuff from a new partner is going to take its time to integrate properly, which might eat into development time. But firing Gascoyne is a surprising and potentially costly move.

  4. Will Force India make a leap forward in 2009 after their McLaren deal?

    many would wish it was that simple… so, no

  5. If you ask me, this is as close to a customer car deal as you could possibly get without it being a customer car deal. Why are the other teams OK with this but not an entire chassis?

  6. great, more things for Ron Dennis to try to control, and cry about.

  7. anyway, isn’t it stipulated in the rules that a engine maker can only sell its engines to one team?

    I’m sure it was on Formula1.com last year about the FIA allowing Ferrari to sell to Torro Rosso AND Spyker for the year since Cosworth pulled out?. and also that the year before they allowed Minardi to have V10 power units since they were so poor in comparison to lets say… Ferrari or BMW power?

    to the point that Torro Rosso ask for an extra 500revs?, but were only allowed an extra 300?

  8. Dan Brunell

    I do hope this is the way of the future for many new teams on the grid If say Lola and other notable chassis builder (come’on Lotus, would love you back!) want to get back into the sport; this might be a good way to do it.

    I’d love to see Lotus build a new F1 car too Dan.

    I’d also like to see some other teams use this method for their early years in F1.

    If each manufacturer could offer a similar set-up to this to at least one other team it would allow the manufacturers to reduce the development costs & could be a low cost option for the customer team too.

    Anything that allows more teams to race is good news for me.

  9. So, are we getting more teams on the grid in the near future? – though not Prodrive apparently.

    And yes, I believe (and hope) Force India will move up the grid next year.

  10. If Max and his FIA barons are really interested in cutting costs, they should forget about the horrible spec-engine plans and push for more cooperation like this. Force India benifits tremendously from this arrangement, and McLaren also makes out well, so everyone is happy in the end. Indeed, perhaps a rule could be put into place where one of the big teams can only help one or two smaller teams, but this is a good start for now.

    In terms of pushing Force India up the grid, I don’t see them challenging the front-runners for the titles,. but perhaps they can haul in around 20 points if they play their cards right, maybe even a podium or two….

    Finally, with regard to the drivers, no doubt McLaren are going to edge Mallya to put one or more of their guys in a seat, including di Resta and, long down the road if the deal is still going, perhaps Oliver Rowland. While it seems it may take awhile, Mallya will want an Indian driver in one of the cars eventually, so perhaps McLaren gets the say on one seat and Force India gets the other to itself.

  11. Vijay Mallya dreamed about points in 2008 too.

    Mallya however seems to know what he is doing and with improved reliabity the points may be realistic goal for next season. Wins ? Hm, would McLaren guys like that ?

    Mallya should do something about his driver line up, if he managed to get out of the contract with Ferrari he should not have much trouble to get out of the contract with any of his drivers. But I am not sure if lining up di Resta and de la Rosa is what he has in mind … but well, money talks so we can’t rule anything out

  12. well…. along with the engine package they also need to upgrde their traction and aero… or else they r gonna be in the same position… mclaren engine is as good as ferrari (better? who knows)

  13. It’s way too hard to predict, for 2009, even if Force India have Mercedes engines and McLaren gearbox and parts. They will disappoint, though, if they don’t rack up at least 15 points, next season.

  14. Hang on a moment, surely a deal like this is so close to being ‘Customer Cars’ why don’t the FIA just go the whole way and allow it to happen? Then we would see teams sharing engines with BMW, Honda and Renault again, and bigger grids!
    I think a better future for Force India will depend on whether they keep the current drivers or go for Mercedes / McLaren sourced more experienced ones. Also, surely it will depend on how much technical assistance they get from McLaren and Mercedes too. And how much is allowed under the current rules?
    If Force India are effectively becoming a ‘B’ team for McLaren, won’t that open the door to all sorts of accusations next season from Ferrari? (Who will conviently forget about STR…..)
    And thinking about Torro Rosso, perhaps Luca and his boys ought to think about putting more money their way? Maybe turn it into Martini Racing F1? Perhaps with Old Schuey as Team Principle(?)

  15. I don’t think the Merc engines alone would make a difference to running Ferrari engines as they have this year , but together with the McLaren gearbox/KERS and electronics , could elevate them from 19&20 to possibly around 15th place – as some above say though , they need to look at the driver line up . I get the impression from Fisichella that he is a good driver , but needing a constant push , which he just has not had this year . Sutil is still a bit of an unknown until he can be in a competitive car. I’d like to see another few teams join F1 , even if it meant re-introducing the qualifying time rule.

  16. I’m guessing this puts the final nail in the coffin for a potential Prodrive entry too. Shame, I was looking forward to seeing them on the grid. There just aren’t enough cars lining up at the start these days.

  17. I think this deal makes perfect sense. Engine and gearbox aside, it would be crazy for any of these small teams to go about developing a KERS system. Williams claim they only spent $2million developing theirs, so perhaps they already had the expertise in that area. But a team like ForceIndia would probably get lost trying to develop such a system and be distracted from building a much improved chassis.

    In this regard, it makes perfect sense to do away with Gascoyne. I really don’t see what exactly he has done for them. If you notice after he left Renault they got faster. Same thing also with Toyota. I believe Mark Smith can handle his those duties adequately.

    This is still far off from being a customer car. I have always believe an Engine and its Gearbox should be one unit. KERS is now also becoming an engine accessory. So a team like ForceIndia can now concentrate on chassis and aerodynamics.
    If Toyota had found their way around KERS, I would expect them to have a similar deal with Williams. But I have a suspicion that Williams may be the ones handing equipment to Toyota.

  18. A step forward, yes, but a leap forward? Probably not in terms of performance.

    On first glance, Force India using Mercedes engines together with McLaren gearboxes, KERS and other bits and pieces sounds great. But the team still needs a decent chassis with a good aero package to hang it all on.

    The team also needs to run like clockwork (STR-style) to be able to pick up points here and there. The departure of Colin Kolles and Mike Gascoyne have to call that into question, both technically and logistically – Malla is unproven at running a racing team let alone an F1 team.

    Likewise, the timing of this deal. Force India should be well advanced in designing their 2009 car by now. Will the adoption of various McLaren/Mercedes bits interfere with that process?

    Is the Mercedes actually a step forward from the Ferrari engine Force India used in 2008? Even if it is, it won’t be enough to make a huge difference.

    This should see Force India close the gap to the rest of the grid, but not by that much. The relationship with McLaren will take time to bed in and integrating major new components at this stage is never ideal.

    Either way, this is probably the end for Prodrive F1. But could this be a way round the customer car issue? Could a similar deal save STR and help to bring in new teams?

  19. schumi the greatest
    11th November 2008, 12:44

    i think it will help but i dont think we’ll see force india consistently challenging for points all of a sudden.

    i think sacking mike gascoyne was a bad idea, dont forget he designed the 99 jordan (the most successful jordan ever) the 05 toyota (the most successful toyota to date) and he designed the 02 & 03 renaults which were vast improvements on the 2001 car when he joined the team. he does seem to lift any team hes at to a better level so i think it was unwise of force india to sack him because hes had 1 bad year.

  20. Suerly Force India will gain an advantage from other teams by using mclaren engines KERS and gearbox.
    I also think they will challenge for points, for some teams i hear have announced they will not introduce the KERS systems untill mid – season which will give Force India a clear advantage to those who dont have the KERS system like Toyota i believe.

    By the way, why didnt Prodrive get into F1 last season?

    I think more teams should be added to the grid, it would make F1 more exciting. (though even more political)

    P.S. Vijay Malya has (hinted) he may change the drivers for next season… as you mentioned above Keith.

  21. Striay –

    Why didn’t Prodrive get into F1 last season?

    The FIA owe Prodrive an apology

  22. Force India need to sort out a decent 2009-spec aero package to go with their half-McLarens before they can “leap” up the grid. Perhaps they can regularly score solid points finishes and battle with the midfield – it all depends on how successfully Honda and Williams have developed their 2009 machines.
    I’d love to see Paul DiResta in Formula 1, from what I’ve read of him he could be The Next Big Thing.

  23. Keith Collantine

    The FIA owe Prodrive an apology

    I’m sure they’ve added them to the list, although I believe JM Fangio is on that list so the guys at Prodrive shouldn’t hold their breath waiting.


    So, are we getting more teams on the grid in the near future?

    We can but hope mate.

    I’m with everyone else on here, I want to see more cars on the grid & I’m not that bothered if they’re “customer” teams.
    The Red Bull/Toro Rosso set up seems sensible to me, as does the McLaren/Force India deal.

    I don’t really understand the problem that the FIA has with customer teams, I’d much rather watch 26 F1 cars racing than 18 & customer teams or inter-team supplies of engines seems a good way of achieving this at an affordable price.

  24. i think the deal will do a lot of good for Force India and definitely help them grab some points, 10-12 points is what I see them achieving next season…

    But this may not happen coz i agree with Tim, Mallya is untested to lead a racing team, although he is one of India’s sharpest businessmen… I simply can not see his reason for firing Gascoyne and fail to understand the lack of a clear explanation… did Gascoyne want to leave?

  25. Slight correction:
    “I don’t really understand the problem that the FIA has with customer teams.”

    Should have read:
    “I don’t really understand the problem that some teams have with customer teams”

  26. Didn’t Ferrari have an arrangement rather similar to this one with Sauber, when the Swiss team ran Ferrari engines badged as Petronas, together with Ferrari gearboxes and electronics (maybe even an entire Ferrari chassis on the sly, as was speculated in 2003)? It didn’t seem to do them an awful lot of good, they continued to scrape away at the minor points and grab the occasional podium, while Ferrari seemed to benefit massively, as the partnership coincided with the endless Schumacher winning streak. So it seems as if Dr Vijay’s stated ambition for a win in 2010 is a little far-fetched but the important thing is that, as with the Ferrari-Sauber partnership, it will keep one of the sport’s independents in business, albeit with perhaps a little less independence than before (such as on voting for rule changes – it was only when Peter Sauber began deviating from the Ferrari agenda that their tie-in started to unravel).

    As for Mallya ditching Kolles and Gascoyne and appointing himself team principal, it reminds me slightly of when Rocco Benetton personally took charge of the family team in 1999 and, out of his depth, let it crumble around him performance-wise. But Mallya strikes me as a smart cookie – more a Flav than a Rocco – and there’s no arguing with his business record, so we’ll see. I’m not sure whether Gascoyne leaving is a good or bad thing – I mean, he does seem to have a positive effect on the teams he’s been at, but what’s he actually won? Anyway it’ll be interesting to see where he washes up next – Williams, perhaps, as they seem to be in need of a good shake up, and their feisty, no-nonsense style might sit well with a Rottweiler like Gascoyne. Or maybe not – I can imagine a row between him and Patrick Head being like an explosion in a fireworks factory…

  27. @25 beneboy

    The problem is as Williams described it…the constructor teams that are stuck in the middle of the pack don’t want to see some other new team come in, buy a complete Ferrari or McLaren, or even a BMW car and then start whooping their butts with a car they didnt build.

    The more teams fighting at the front of the pack means those stuck in the middle right now, just get pushed further towards the back and score less points and therefore get less money. It all comes down to the money in the end. I dont think it has anything to do with not wanting more teams, they just think that the teams should earn their spot at the top and not buy it.

  28. Apart from sticking two fingers up to Ferrari because Force India have ditched them in favour of Mercedes, what do McLaren get out of this?

    Is Mallya paying Lewis’ retainer?

  29. Alex –

    what do McLaren get out of this?

    Money, more cars running their kit in testing, possibly a say in what drivers Force India uses.

  30. Ah of course – extra mileage on the new equipment.
    Cheers Keith.

  31. I think Mercedes sees India as an important market and intends to use the Force India relationship to strengthen its position as the leading performance luxury brand

  32. JSC: As for Mallya ditching Kolles and Gascoyne and appointing himself team principal

    Thats got me thinking, have McLaren/Mercedes already told Force India to appoint the relevant people from Prodrive?
    It would be a nice little swipe at FIA/FOM/Frank Williams wouldn’t it?
    Personally, I think Prodrive have gone back to racing Aston Martins, what they are very good at! – oh, and as a follow up to a previous article – the Merc/AM deal is reported to be to provide Maybach engines for a new Lagonda sports/luxury car range including SUVs etc

  33. JSC – Sauber ran an entire Ferrari rear-end one year, including engine, gearbox, suspension, uprights, etc. I think Prost did something similar in 2001, when their customer Ferrari units were badged as Acers. Another year (2004?), Sauber’s car was remarkably similar to the 2003 Ferrari. But none of these brought the customer team any great success.

  34. @ Jason

    Sorry mate, should have been a bit clearer earlier.

    Using the customer team model of Red Bull/Toro Rosso where the cars are running different engines.
    Or the McLaren/Force India model where the manufacturer supplies the engine/gearbox/drivetrain & associated parts that the customer then builds a car around.

    Either of these allows smaller teams to compete at vastly reduced costs without it being a complete clone of the manufacturers cars. The Red Bull/Toro Rosso set up makes perfect sense to me, it’s always cheaper to make more of something so running 2 teams with a 1st team & feeder team is a good solution.

  35. Granted with the new aero limitations there may be a bit (emphasis on a bit) of less aero testing required, but the car design will still be critical. Sooo, I think F.I won’t score any points until year 3 of their deal, maybe a podium by year 5, but absolutely no wins.

    And is it just me or does this sound like a buy into the team by McLaren? Why else would McLaren operations officer be named F.I.’s COO??

    Just wondering.

  36. I’m sure Ferrari are thrilled that McLaren will have 2 new wingmen protecting their drivers *****.
    Nice move, love it.

  37. thanx for the reply Keith sorry i didnt answer erlier ive got loads of homework (3 essays 12 science pgs)

    im at GCSE but i dont know what to study at Uni any ideas ?

    Sorry for being off the subject!!!!

  38. this is really a good steep by force india to take a hand of mers i hope they keep getting points in 2009

Comments are closed.