Force India enjoy best season since Jordan days

2011 F1 season review

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Sutil in action at Monaco

Force India have gradually improved from back-of-the-grid stragglers to among the most competitive midfield contenders since Vijay Mallya took over the team four years ago.

That progress continued in 2011 despite the loss of several top technical staff last year. The team ended the year sixth, their best finish since 2002, when they were still known as Jordan.

And they were just four points shy of Renault in the teams’ standings.

Vitantonio Liuzzi made way for Paul di Resta at the start of the year and the rookie impressed from the beginning of the season, out-qualifying Adrian Sutil in the first three races.

The pair inherited points in Melbourne after the two Saubers were disqualified. That aside it was a slow start to the season for the team, picking up ten points in the first seven races.

Force India team stats 2011

Best race result (number)6th (3)
Best grid position (number) 6th (1)
Non-finishes (mechanical/other) 3 (2/1)
Laps completed (% of total) 2,162 (95.41%)
Laps led (% of total) 0 (0%)
Championship position (2010) 6th (7th)
Championship points (2010) 69 (68)
Pit stop performance ranking5th

But the VJM04s made regular appearances in the top ten later in the year, scoring in all bar one of the final ten races. This was due to a combination of reasons.

They included the progress the team made with the car, Renault’s decline in form, and Sutil taking time to come to terms with the new specification tyres.

Sutil’s form improved around the middle of the season and he increasingly lead Force India’s incursions into the points. He beat Nico Rosberg at the Nurburgring to take sixth place and repeated the feat in the season finale.

Di Resta matched his team mate’s best result at Singapore after gambling on starting the race on soft tyres. But similar daring strategies in India and Abu Dhabi failed to pay dividends and were probably employed by the team in an effort to hold on to their best-ever position sixth in the world championship.

If so, this policy was ultimately vindicated. It’s possible they could have taken fifth, but they probably never expected Renault to do quite as badly as they did in the second half of the year.

Pit stops were another of the team’s strengths. Thought not ultimately as quick as the likes of Red Bull or Mercedes, Force India were among the three fastest teams in the pits on nine occasions this year.

An unfortunate exception was Silverstone, where di Resta was badly delayed when he happened to pit on the same lap Sutil had come in with a puncture.

The team continued its 2010 policy of giving track time to a junior driver on Fridays, Nico Hulkenberg taking over from di Resta or Sutil on alternate weekends. This usually did not disrupt their weekends except in Valencia, when Hulkenberg crashed the car and left di Resta unable to do more than a handful of laps in the second session.

More first-lap woe for Di Resta in Spa

More misfortune afflicted di Resta in Germany and Belgium, where he was hit by rivals on the first lap. But he had a few run-ins of his own doing as well, notably in Canada (with Nick Heidfeld) and Monaco (with Jaime Alguersuari), which earned him his two penalties of the year.

Those indiscretions aside, this was an impressive F1 debut for a driver who spent the last four seasons doing just ten races a year in touring cars, and lacking the experience at many F1 venues enjoyed by the likes of Sergio Perez and Pastor Maldonado.

It leaves the team weighing up whether to drop either of its drivers – both of which were impressive in their own right – to make way for Hulkenberg, who also clearly belongs in F1. A decision is expected within the next few days.

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Images © Force India F1 Team, Pirelli/LAT

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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...

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23 comments on “Force India enjoy best season since Jordan days”

  1. Force India had a very good season. I believe their up turn in performance started from Valencia. Since then they made regular appearances in Q3 (they failed only in Spa, Monza and Suzuka). And as a fan I am happy.
    As for the drivers, Adrian Sutil struggled at the beginning of the season, but his second half was brilliant. He showed to the paddock that he deserves to stay in F1. Paul di Resta was the best rookie of the season for me, not only quick in qualifying but also in the second half delivered some good performances.
    I am eagerly waiting for their driver announcement, as FI have 3 quality drives in their team and the trio deserve to drive in 2012.

  2. Both Jordan and Minardi are good examples of how with a solid base to build on and a little investment struggling teams can really move forward. Hopefully Caterham, Virgin and HRT can survive long enough to earn a few dollars/investors to help them forward too.

  3. last year FI lost by 1 point to Williams though the team did not say how/why it lost it’s lead it made it’s intentions clear by sacking Tonio & getting a younger driver i.e di Resta. This year they finished 5 points behind but they can’t blame the drivers for this, they compromised race strategy for one of the drivers & it mostly was Paul. Also pit mistakes made by the team like one in British GP too cost them points. These are the areas they can improve for next year.

    What clearly impressed me that despite having high exodus of technical staff they managed to put a strong fight & in few races even beating Mercedes & Renault. Clearly the team is on the rise looks hungry & motivated. At the start of the season many including me felt that they could have poor season but they found good technical leadership under Andrew Green.

    Last year i felt they would drop Tonio despite his contract & give a chance to Paul & then replace Sutil by Hulkenberg the following year, which makes perfect sense keeping long term perspective.

    1. Except that Sutil appears to be a very strong driver to lead the team.

      1. Agree Sutil will still be the best option for them but i think they will settle for Hulk & keep di Resta… still to be decided though.

    2. Strange isn’t it that the exodus of tech staff (who BTW were there with the team since the Jordan days) helped the team move up in the standings. Makes me believe they were the one’s who were holding the team down…

  4. Fresh rumour say that vijay might depart from force india, due to financial problems, if that happens, it will be a big blow for force india and if feel vijay has been one of the best team principal in recent times.
    personally i dont have faith in sahara india.

    1. Mallya leaving could be a possibility but at present it’s clear speculation & i feel he will rather cut his Airline size or shut it completely than sell Force India. But Sahara can push Mallya to sell his stake even if Mallya does not intend to.

      1. can only hope that these speculation never comes true, as its nt the case these days. will be a major setback fr FI though.

  5. I do wonder if its more sensible to keep both drivers. Sutil is quick, but needs to keep his 2nd half form all the way through the year. Di Resta did better then anyone would have hoped a rookie would have and can only improve with a years knowledge under him. Its cruel on Nico, but its a steady ship at the moment, why rock it?

    As for finances and Mallya, it was vital that they got Sahara onboard, otherwise I really would be worrying for the team. But the cars have improved each year, they have as good a driver combo as anyone, I see no reason why they cant improve next season.

    1. I feel the same too. Right now their driver combination looks very stable. They shouldn’t experiment especially when the team is on the rise. Maybe i’m saying this because i’m a fan of Sutil but my opinions aside sutil has clearly shown that he is more than capable to lead FI. Plus there doesn’t seem to be any sort of tension between sutil and di resta which as I said earlier makes the combination extremely stable. And as kimi is back to Lotus, it makes more sense to keep drivers who are known to perform rather than try to experiment so that the team can challenge Lotus for 5th next year.

  6. with Raikonnen in renault in 2012 ,, i think they should go for sutil so that they can challenge renault,,, for 5 th nd a rookie on other end,,,, dat would be paul di resta,,, nd hulk should should move back to williams

    1. Why would Nico Hülkenberg, a driver with lots of potential and a pretty good reputation, want to move back to Williams, a team who have continued their decline since he left them?

      A season at Lotus/Caterham (in the place of Jarno Trulli) would probably do more for his career than a return to Williams.

  7. I’m not too fond of comparisons with previous guises. It’s like comparing Merc with Tyrell, Red Bull with Stewart, Torro Rosso with Minardi and Lotus with Toleman. When the ownership changes, comparisons should too.

  8. Apparently Bianchi could get the third driver role and get friday practices, like Di Resta and Hulkenberg did in the last two years. And I hope Sutil (as he’s the most likely one to get dropped) gets that Williams seat, he deserves to stay in the sport.

    1. @enigma That sounds plausible enough to me. I’d be happy with that.

  9. Is Merc GP the team with the most amount of name changes? can’t think of another with more…

    5: Tyrrell – BAR – Honda – Brawn – Mercedes
    4: Jordan – Midland – Spyker – FI
    4: Toleman – Benneton – Renault – Lotus (next year)

    can anyone beat five?

    1. 15:

      Bruce McLaren Motor Racing
      Team Yardley McLaren
      Yardley Team McLaren
      Marlboro Team Texaco
      Marlboro Team McLaren
      Löwenbräu Team McLaren
      McLaren International
      Marlboro McLaren International
      Honda Marlboro McLaren
      Marlboro McLaren
      Marlboro McLaren Peugeot
      Marlboro McLaren Mercedes
      West McLaren Mercedes
      Team McLaren Mercedes
      Vodafone McLaren Mercedes

      (I know that’s not what you meant :P)

  10. It leaves the team weighing up whether to drop either of its drivers – both of which were impressive in their own right – to make way for Hulkenberg, who also clearly belongs in F1.

    Exactly. Di Resta has been incredibly good this season, and is definitely a future champion, but Sutil has also impressed in the final part of the year. Hulkenberg is also a great driver and needs to be in a race seat in 2012, but it’s hard to pick the best two out of these three. Hopefully the one who gets the boot finds a seat somewhere else, because I feel it would hurt Nico to take part in another season just as test driver.

    1. @Fixy If Nico doesn’t get a seat for 2012 (I really hope he does), he won’t stick around as a third driver for another year. A month ago or so he said he’s not happy not racing this year, and that he won’t do it for another year. So he’ll leave to race somewhere else, if he fails to get a seat.

      1. @enigma the problem is if Nico isn’t chosen to race at FI the only available seats will be one at Williams (unlikely, as they dropped him last year) and HRT. Sutil at Williams seems more likely.

  11. I think that the driver line up has benn finalized at FI with Hulkenberg and Di Resta.Sutil and Petrov may land up at Williams and sad for me to see Rubinho go.

  12. A good season for Force India. Di Resta has been an incredible investment for them, I expect big things from him in the future, I’d love to see him in a front running car to see what he can do. Sutil has also had a good season but judging by the performance of Di Resta, it seems the team is good enough to support another driver instead. I don’t want to see Sutil lose his F1 seat completely but I’m more keen to see Hulkenberg back in an F1 car to see what he can do.

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