Nico Hulkenberg, Force India, Circuit de Catalunya, 2015

Force India expect mid-season gains from wind tunnel

2015 F1 season preview

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Nico Hulkenberg, Force India, Circuit de Catalunya, 2015

The team

It was Force India who got the 2015 pre-season build-up going by holding a lavish event in Mexico City to reveal a smart new livery for its eighth Formula One car.

With Mexico due to host its first race in 23 years this November, and the team’s driver Sergio Perez now their only representative, what better time to focus attention on their new Mexican sponsors?

The new car, however, was not ready to be seen yet. It later transpired the VJM08 wouldn’t be ready for the first test. Or the second one. It eventually appeared it time to manage just three days of running before the first race.

Was this a sign that Force India, who scored their biggest-ever points haul last year, had dropped the ball in a big way over the winter? The team insist the delay was borne of a desire to maximise the time they could spend developing new the car using Toyota’s wind tunnel in Cologne, where they will conduct all such work this year.

“In light of the FIA’s restrictions on wind tunnel time and the fact that we can only nominate one tunnel, we decided that the Toyota facility in Cologne offered the best way forward for the short and medium term,” explained COO Otmar Szafnauer.

This means they can now use a 60% scale model instead of a 50% one, bringing them in line with most other teams and gaining the benefits of more accurate information which is easier to correlate with real-world data. It’s a potentially significant step for a team which ran into problems with its aerodynamic development towards the end of last year.

“I expect we will start to feel the benefits of the new tunnel by the middle of the 2015 season,” Szafnauer added.

Although Force India came last out of the four Mercedes-powered teams last year, they gave their far better-resourced rivals McLaren a good run. The best measure of whether they can make the necessary aerodynamic gains is whether they can close the gap to Williams and beat the three-pointed star’s new customer, Lotus.

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The drivers

27. Nico Hulkenberg

Nico Hulkenberg, Force India, Circuit de Catalunya, 2015Although he continues to be overlooked by F1’s top teams, Nico Hulkenberg is a first-rate performer whose speed and racing nous shows he absolutely belongs at the top level.

It will be intriguing to see how he balances the demands of a 20-race F1 campaign with two appearances in the World Endurance Championship for Porsche, including the gruelling Le Mans 24 Hours.

11. Sergio Perez

Sergio Perez, Force India, Circuit de Catalunya, 2015Sergio Perez is superbly delicate with his tyres and while this can be his undoing in qualifying it means he can make ground in races where running longer stints is a viable strategy.

He can be a touch too combative at times, though not to Maldonado extremes. Last year’s podium in Bahrain was a much-needed shot in the arm after a bruising season at McLaren.

The car

Although the VJM08 did not run until the tenth day of pre-season testing it proved remarkably reliable when it did appear. The team averaged 566 kilometres per day – more than any of their rivals managed with their 2015 designs.

The team doesn’t expect to have problems managing the limit of four power units per season either. As they pointed out, one of Nico Hulkenberg’s five engines only did 17 laps at the Circuit of the Americas last year.

However it’s inevitable Force India have more to discover about their car than their rivals do about their own machines. And with a new rival also using Mercedes power who, like Force India, are pairing it with the preferred Petronas lubricants, holding on to that sixth place in the championship will be no easy task.

Over to you

How do you think Force India’s late start to 2015 will affect the team? Can they get on the podium again this year?

Have your say in the comments.

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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...

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14 comments on “Force India expect mid-season gains from wind tunnel”

  1. A podium this year is a far stretched dream unless they come in to certain situations like Brazil 2012. It is a good team with dedicated personnel who give much well resourced opponents a run for their money. I see them retaining their 6th in championship with consistent points finishes in the lower reaches of top 10 and a few surprise runs in the mid top 10. This year will be like their campaigns before 2013 where they start late then become strong rather than like last 2 years where they had great starts and mediocre finishes.

  2. Even though the VJM08 is proving to be reliable, when comparing to a team that has achieved similar mileage, McLaren, if it turns out the MP4-30 is quick I’d rather back them to perform better. I’m a believer in the the quote “I’d rather have a quick unreliable car than a slow reliable one”. McLaren have a history of quick but fragile cars, and history usual proves they eventually make them reliable too. Can Force India make the VJM08 quick? That’s the question for them this season.

    1. Big gulf in reliability though. Same mileage but took McLaren 12 days Force I did 4 days. Cannot put my mortgage on Force India beating McLaren but would be great if they do. With Manor in it must be million to one McLaren come last but fingers crossed.

  3. They’ll be a bit behind Williams and Ferrari at first because there’s no way they’ve tested everything as thoroughly. But Perez has that ability to do something different with tyres and strategy, which could bag him a big result or two.
    Hulkenberg – well, good luck getting on any kind of podium in 2015. His rivals towards the front in F1 get stronger and more experienced (only Kvyat is lacking in that respect) – and he’s sharing his Porsche with some other part-timers, in races where there’s an extra Audi and Nissan to beat!

  4. I’m getting pretty tired of the whole “Hulkenberg being overlooked by top teams” thing – which driver would people suggest he replace? Looking over Red Bull, Ferrari, Merc and McLaren, I don’t see any point in them taking Hulkenberg given their current lineups.

    1. Seriously? I’d rather have the Hulk than Kvyat or maybe even Raikkonen (assuming he gets trashed by Vettel this year)

    2. I’d take a younger, cheaper and more flexible Hulkenberg over old Kimi any day.

    3. Id replace any of these with hulk; kimi, button, kvyat, rosberg.

      1. Massa and maldonado also asuming both williams and lotus are more conpetative than FI

        1. As has already been said, I’d have Hulkenberg instead of Button, Kvyat, Raikkonen, Massa, Maldonado and possibly Grosjean but Lotus are probably on a par with Force India so not a “top team”.

  5. Although Force India haven’t got lot of testing time due to delays, they’ll pick up the pace on the latter stages. It is a close and more competitive midfield than last year, good drivers will be key and FI doesn’t lack in that area.

  6. Since inception this team has all kinds of stories going around mostly about it’s financial health… but they always have found a way to maximize their resources… if we had some statistic about points scored per dollar spent they would really come close to the best. This year is the first we are seeing signs of trouble after years of speculation…

    The car looks like a quick fix to VJM07 as per new regulations… as per media reports they will get a new car by British GP at Silverstone… it won’t surprise me if we will see that they will catch up with the group in front after starting from behind.

  7. Simon (@weeniebeenie)
    4th March 2015, 16:35

    Looking at that photo I can’t help but still feel sad at the near complete lack of colour on the car. It’s Force India, it should be bright and colourful, not grey and drab. Just google ‘India Colours’, drab and grey the results are not.

  8. Caterham used the Toyota windtunnel last season and we all know how that went…
    Of course not the only thing that went wrong with caterham last year.
    Caterham hyped the wind tunnel really big last year, and I hope force India aren’t relying to heavily in that.

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