Force India’s best season could have been even better

2014 F1 season review

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Force India team stats 2014

Best race result (number) 3 (1)
Best grid position (number) 4 (2)
Non-classifications (mechanical/other) 6 (1/5)
Laps completed (% of total) 1,927 (82.77%)
Laps led (% of total) 16 (1.37%)
Championship position (2013) 6 (6)
Championship points (2013) 155 (77)
Pit stop performance ranking 7

Force India ended the season sixth in the championship – equal their best-ever result, which they’ve now scored in three of the last four seasons.

And having taken only 13 races to match their previous best haul of 109 points, this was clearly Force India’s most impressive season in their seven-year F1 history. The Silverstone-based squad hasn’t finished higher since its Jordan-Honda days in 2001.

This brings advantages beyond securing a portion of F1’s prize money. Force India is not one of the five teams which automatically gets a place on the powerful Strategy Group, but having been first in the championship out of the remaining outfits, it will take the sixth place in the group which was previously occupied by Lotus.

A substantial part of the credit for Force India’s success has to go to its Mercedes-Benz PU106A V6 turbo hybrid engines. But the foundations of their impressive 2014 campaign were laid in the first half of last year.

A strong start to the 2013 season gave Force India the luxury of being able to devote all its efforts to the VJM07 ahead of time. This was especially important for a team which lacks the resources of larger teams.

Indeed for much of 2014 it looked as though Force India would pull off a shock by demoting one of those teams – McLaren – to last among the Mercedes-powered runners. Force India’s Woking rivals only passed them for fifth in the championship with three races to go.

As last year, Force India hit the ground running. Nico Hulkenberg finished all of the first four races in the top six, and Sergio Perez gave the team its second-ever podium finish in Bahrain. As F1 returned to Europe for round five, Force India held a remarkable second place in the constructors’ championship.

It couldn’t last. Sure enough Force India slipped back down the order partly due to the superior development capacity of their better-resourced rivals, and partly because Williams, having built a better car, finally started to get the best out of it.

A shot at a big points haul went begging in Canada. Perez was pressuring Nico Rosberg for the lead at one stage, and had he not been frustrated by the hobbled Mercedes repeatedly staying one second clear of him at the DRS detection point, Perez could have made a run for it. Instead he came under attack from behind, and an incautious defensive move while under attack from Felipe Massa caused a major crash.

The team’s line-up of returnee Hulkenberg and McLaren refugee Perez served it well for the most part, and both have been retained for next year. Hulkenberg was the lead points-scorer but on days when tyre preservation was a greater factor Perez often came to the fore. Conversely, problems with tyre warm-up were at the root of Perez’s too-frequent indifferent qualifying performances.

Hulkenberg could usually be relied on to stay out of trouble, though he committed an uncharacteristic faux pas in Hungary by colliding with Perez. Hulkenberg was out on the spot and Perez found the barrier on his own a few laps later, resulting in the team’s first of just two point-less weekends all year.

The other came at Austin, where Perez slipped up by colliding with Sutil on the first lap. In a double blow, Hulkenberg ran over the debris and had to pit for repairs, then later retired.

This was a blow to their hopes of getting back in front of McLaren. At this stage of the season, despite a steady stream of upgrades, the VJM07s were increasingly out-gunned in qualifying. The effect on Hulkenberg’s qualifying positions was especially striking: having started in the top 11 for the first 11 races, he failed to do so for the rest of the year.

However the team made a timely resurgence ahead of the double points finale in Abu Dhabi, which was partly explained by them having resolved a sticking point in the development of their car. Hulkenberg and Perez came home sixth and seventh, the team’s best result since Bahrain.

But that 26-point margin to McLaren must have left a nagging feeling that, although 2014 was a very good year for Force India, it could have been even better.

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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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20 comments on “Force India’s best season could have been even better”

  1. That graph doesn’t require a trend line. The double points of Abu Dhabi saved face.

  2. well without Perez DNF in Malaysia, Monaco (when Hulk was in top 5) and of course Canada, they should be ahead of McLaren. Force India was amazing in the first few races this year

    1. @deongunner or simply BUT scoring 5th at abu double saved McLaren

      1. @beejis60 it won’t be enough because they will be tied on points and McLaren came ahead because of 2nd place in Australia.

    2. Liam McShane (@)
      9th December 2014, 16:05

      Or without Magnussens poor performance throughout the year McLaren would be comfortably be ahead.

  3. And now we’re waiting for an article saying “McLarens season could have been better”. If it hadn’t been for Magnussen being taken out by Massa in Germany, penalized at Spa, penalized (unfairly) at Monza or driven offtrack by Hulkenberg and hit by Sutil in Abu Dhabi, McLaren could have challenged Ferrri instead of being challenged by Force India.
    If only …

  4. Oeiiiiiiiiiiii! (another davidnotcoulthard account) (@)
    9th December 2014, 13:14

    I couldn’t help but think “3rd in ’99”? :p

  5. I like Force India.

    A small budget team with a bit of arrogance, high ambitions, good overall drivers and platform to work with. In a few words: The kind of teams F1 needs.

    This season could have been significantly worst for Force India considering resources and rivals. Battling against the likes of big teams such as Ferrari, McLaren, Mercedes, Red Bull and Williams is a tough job, as they almost make the top 10.

    This season could have been way better for Force India if they had some kind of continuity with one driver over the off-season and a better development program.

    2015 could really be their year as most members (including drivers) stay within the team, but can also be a make-or-break season.

    Once again, high expectations.

    1. i like to see them as worthy carriers of the Jordan F1 team, don’t they?

      1. paul rodriguez
        9th December 2014, 16:19

        I have to say that, as a Mexican, I get very frustrated with Perez making stupid mistakes every so often…

        1. Perez is fast but lacked discipline in this a frustrating year for Mexican F1 fans with Gutierrez’s poor performance. He will be the sole flag bearer from Mexico when the series comes to Mexico next year.

    2. @jeff1s

      This season could have been way better for Force India if they had some kind of continuity with one driver over the off-season

      I don’t agree – either of the drivers they had this year are better than either of the drivers they had last year. There was no obvious indication either of them had to do a lot in terms of settling into their new environment at the beginning of the season. They both scored their best results of the year within the first three races.

      1. Agreed this year’s team was a major upgrade on last year’s which had a spate of retirements – most of them coming after the midseason tire compound change. Last season 7 races were affected by man-errors (collisions, spin offs, withdrawals). Incidentally they were not relatively faster than where they were last year – still 1.2% off pace in races finished so driver race craft and team strategy must be commended. Sutil has proven to be the most accident prone driver out there today and is historically in the Hunt the Shunt and Andrea de Crasheris territory – and this did not include his 4 incidents this year further indicated he did not belong at a solid team like Force India. Di Resta is a more interesting comparison but with only 13 finishes in 2013 he did not do himself favors and had 3 years on the team and failed to finish with more than 50 points in any season. Two 4th place finishes in 3 years to his name and no season finishes in the top 10 is not something that helps at a team contending for top 5 finishes.

      2. @keithcollantine While the Hulk is undoubtedly better than both Sutil and Di Resta I’m not so sure about the Perez vs Di Resta comparison. Especially from the team’s perspective which is to maximize the point scoring. Di Resta may not have got the standout podium that Perez achieved in Bahrain but arguably he might have scored more points overall

  6. What was the sticking point that was overcome in their development programme?

    1. Bob Fernly did not say what it was. He only said they ide
      identified a mistake in a design path and they corrected it. More than likely it can be narrowed down to an aerodynamic fix since the car already had very good tyre life and traction.

  7. Will be interesting to see what Force India will do in 2015, they now have a seat on the strategy group.

    A group the team has been critisizing the moment they announced it’s existence. Now we will truly see what they are made off…

    1. Won’t make a blind bit of difference. The Strategy Group has Bernie and about 20 yes-men to outvote any opposition. I look forward to more announcements of unanimous decisions…

  8. I think FI illustrate the development cost problem in F1 and, although I would love to see a completely open unrestricted development race, I think the FIA/FOM should put more restrictions on the millions spent trying to squeeze a little more downforce out of the bodywork, my proposal would be a freeze on bodywork developement after the 3rd. race with the teams homologating 2 front/rear wing designs (high/low drag) for the rest of the season. Obvious cost advantages for all teams and fairer to the smaller budget teams.

    1. PS: I would also like engine development to be allowed for the 1st. 3 races to compensate for the lack of pre-season testing, this would allow an engine maker to correct a problem that was undetected in testing due to other problems.

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