Upgrade propels Force India to best season yet

2015 F1 season review

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Force India team stats 2015

Best race result (number)3 (1)
Best grid position (number) 4 (2)
Non-classifications (mechanical/other) 7 (4/3)
Laps completed (% of total) 2,024 (93.96%)
Laps led (% of total) 0 (0%)
Championship position (2014)5 (6)
Championship points (2014)136 (155)
Pit stop performance ranking4

Few teams had as much cause to be satisfied with their year’s work in 2015 as Force India.

The team arrived in Melbourne under a cloud of financial uncertainty and with only minimal testing on a car which was outwardly very similar to its predecessor. Eight months later they left Abu Dhabi with 136 points, one podium finish and their best-ever result of fifth place in the constructor’s championship. That is surely more than anyone at the team might have expected.

So often in the past Force India have begun their year strongly only to gradually fall back down the field as they were out-performed and out-spent in the development race. But in 2015 the arrival of a ‘B-spec’ version of the team’s VJM08 chassis at Silverstone and the subsequent progress they made with it meant that trend was reversed.

The team struggled for pace in the opening third of the season, recording just two points finishes and two Q3 appearances over the first six races. But much hope was invested in the progress they would make with their upgraded car, refined for the first time using Toyota’s wind tunnel in Cologne.

After the long-delayed VJM08 ‘B-spec’ finally appeared at the post-Austrian Grand Prix test the team only failed to score any points at just one race for the remainder of the season, earning an average of nine points per race.

On the driver front Sergio Perez turned in one of the great unsung efforts of 2015. Over the final ten races of the season, Perez outscored his highly-rated team mate Nico Hulkenberg 63 points to 34 and secured only the team’s third ever podium appearance in Russia – albeit thanks to a slice of luck on the last lap.

Hulkenberg finally enjoyed the success he deserves – at Le Mans
At Perez’s first ever home grand prix in Mexico, Force India enjoyed the kind of passionate support rarely seen in modern Formula One outside of Monza – and certainly more vocal than what they ever received at the Indian Grand Prix.

Hulkenberg too enjoyed another solid year, with a great qualifying in Austria to line up on the third row and top six finishes in Austria, Japan and Brazil, but his greatest achievement of the season came in Porsche’s LMP1 919 at Le Mans, rather than a Formula One car.

With what is clearly the team’s strongest-ever driver line-up, it’s little surprise to see the team retain both Perez and Hulkenberg into 2016. The management team also deserve credit this season for allowing Hulkenberg to race at La Sarthe in the first place – something their rivals wouldn’t do for their drivers.

At a time when sportscar endurance racing is enjoying a renaissance, Hulkenberg’s victory for Porsche alongside Tandy and Bamber at one of motorsport’s most prestigious events certainly helped raise the profile of both Hulkenberg and Force India over the rest of the F1 season, as well as providing fans of all motorsport with one of the most memorable storylines of recent times.

But despite securing their highest ever finishing position, the future of the ‘Force India’ name in Formula One still remains uncertain. Intense rumours over a potential rebranding of the team to Aston Martin continue to swirl in the media but nothing, as of yet, has been formally announced.

The key now will be whether or not the team can maintain their late season momentum into next year. But given what they achieved in 2015, it would be brave to bet against them doing so.

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Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...

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8 comments on “Upgrade propels Force India to best season yet”

  1. Awesome season for the team – they got from zero to the heroes through a single season. The B-Spec car was grande, in fact i think it ended the year being the 3rd or 4th fastest car of the grid! In Checo’s hands, it was a regular top 5 contender. Weren’t for Hulk’s drop of form, Force India could’ve fought RBR tooth and nail for P4 in the WCC.

    Aside from Mercedes and Ferrari, the strongest team heading into the winter. Well deserved.

  2. With McLaren and Red Bull not at their best it is important for Force India to find a way into that top 5 not alone this season but also next season. With two capable drivers with plenty of experience and now hopefully a good car I can even see them take fourth off Red Bull next year.

    Overly optimistic me even says Williams should watch their back. I’m not taking into account Renault or Haas as I doubt they will be in the top 4 next season.

  3. The B-spec car also was a rare example of a cool-looking car being fast too, usually in recent years it fails like with Lotus and Williams with their twin-tusk noses and McLaren with L-shaped sidepods.

  4. It might be interesting to see which one of the following 5 teams will come out on top, will it be Force India, Williams, Toro Rosso, Red Bull or McLaren ?

    – If Toro Rosso still as a chassis advantage (although maybe the advantage will be smaller, this time around the engine deficit is going to be smaller too), they can bring the fight to Force India and Williams

    – Unless the chassis’s of Force India and Williams are being on par with that of Toro Rosso, they won’t be just easily ahead, even with a somewhat bit better engine

    – With Red Bull it will depend on how much improvement actually will come from the new Renault engines

    – And McLaren (assuming Toro Rosso still improves it chassis also a bit), has to produce an even better chassis as an improved Toro Rosso 2015 chassis if the Honda engine still comes up short relative to the late ’15 Ferrari engine, which would mean, it has to produce a chassis at the level of the second half ’15 season Red Bull/Mercedes chassis at least to being able to give a fight back

  5. They quickly have become my favourite team on the grid since they hired Hulkenberg and Perez. An exciting line-up and a car who’s vastly better than what their budget would suggest. Let’s hope for an even better 2016. :)

  6. Cool looking car, cool drivers, cool team = lot of popularity and more sponsors.

  7. Nice performance!

  8. But despite securing their highest ever finishing position, the future of the ‘Force India’ name in Formula One still remains uncertain.

    That simple statement, dear friends sums up the dilemma of smaller F1 teams without deep pockets. I have always viewed Force India, especially the staff whose dogged efforts keep pushing the team forward, with great admiration. Their determination and that of VJ Mallya to some extent reminds me of Redbull in their early years, except they do not have the kind of financial and political muscle that Redbull had and continues to have. It is no doubt therefore that with some extra funding and investment in the right places, a wind tunnel being one of them, seeing how much difference that can make, the team will no doubt be bumped up the grid a lot further than where they currently are.

    What is unacceptable, however, is that a team like Force India that has continued to impress with solid performances yearly should be at a financial brink because some higher-ups see the sport as an exclusivity for multi-bilionaires – not saying that VJ Mallya isn’t a 1 percenter – and therefore has no room for people who simply love racing. That ideology might be the underlining factor behind the refusal to address the way money is being distributed to all participating teams in the sport. And that is detrimental to teams such as FI.

    Congrats to Force India – the great men and women behind the name and their strong driver line-up for yet another excellent year in the sport! They have earned it.

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