Will Force India improve on best-ever fifth?

2016 F1 season preview

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After finishing a best-ever fifth in the constructors’ championship last year, can Force India realistically expect to do much better in 2016?

The Silverstone-based team ended 2015 in the thick of the fight with Williams and Red Bull. At Yas Marina Sergio Perez put his car on the second row of the grid and took the chequered flag with only the Mercedes and Ferraris ahead of him.

Celis debuted the VJM09 and will drive in practice
A mid-season overhaul of the VJM08, aided by development work in Toyota’s Cologne wind tunnel, was behind this upswing in form. The team’s new car is clearly very closely related to its successful predecessor. Retaining the advantage of Mercedes customer power units should see them hit the ground running at the start of the year.

This is a squad which was feeling the strain financially 12 months ago and concerns remain. Along with Sauber, Force India has brought a complaint to the EU Competition Commission alleging they have been unfairly excluded from F1’s rule making process and denied a fair share in the sport’s revenues.

One of the team’s co-owners, Subrata Roy, has been in jail since 2014 and indicated last month he intends to sell his share. Vijay Mallya, who owns a corresponding portion of the team, is seldom out of the headlines in the Indian media due to problems elsewhere in his business empire. Two days ago Indian’s Supreme Court was petitioned to ban him from travelling overseas due to unpaid debts relating to his collapsed airline Kingfisher.

In the meantime the appointments of well-heeled drivers Alfonso Celis and Nikita Mazepin on their development roster shows no avenue for raising investment is being left unexplored. However the need for cash has not meant compromises for their race driver line-up.

  • 27: Nico Hulkenberg

    Widely regarded as one of the best drivers of recent years not to land a seat at a top team, Hulkenberg vindicated that view by winning the Le Mans 24 Hours with Porsche last year. However contentious changes in the F1 calendar mean he won’t be able to defend his crown this year.

    Hulkenberg was overshadowed by Perez somewhat in the second half of last season and was involved in a few unnecessary incidents. With major moves on the driver market predicted for 2017 he needs to reassert himself if he’s to finally gain that promotion.

    11: Sergio Perez

    If any driver has cause to be pleased about Pirelli’s development direction for 2016 it is surely Perez. With new ultra-soft tyres coming for some races and rules tweaks leading drivers to use the soft tyres more often, his touch for managing wear and degradation could serve him very well.

    Last year Perez got on top of the B-spec VJM08 and rode a wave of confidence to the end of the season, grabbing a podium along the way. He’s shown a new level of maturity in wheel-to-wheel battles as well: this could be the year he puts it all together and hits new heights.

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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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    11 comments on “Will Force India improve on best-ever fifth?”

    1. I think the are lucky if, they can hold on to it this year.

    2. I seriously doubt they take 4th from STR/RBR/Williams

      1. From STR? Easily beat them I think, STR have a 2015 engine which will certainly show its drawbacks towards the end

    3. Unless Williams drops the ball and Red Bull’s PU performance is abysmal, I don’t see Force India improving on 5th place. Maybe they can hang on to 5th place if Toro Rosso struggle in the 2nd half of the season

    4. They may have some problems putting the cars on the grid due to the legal issues surrounding Vijay Mallya.

    5. Being honest STR are not going to challenge them and unfortunately neither are Mclaren. STR have a 2015 ferrari engine while FI have the 2016 merc one.

      Given Renault’s conservative outlook to 2016 I definitely think FI are in with a shout for 4th taking RBR’s place. I don’t expect any major improvement from Renault this year and with that Merc engine in the back, FI should be able to make good ground especially in the first half of the season when the B-spec is still very competitive.

    6. I still consider this one of the best driver line ups on the grid

      1. Definitely the best FI can afford although Grosjean could qualify in the same calibre and they are quite complementary with Hulk usually more constant during a season while Perez has shown he can manage the occasional podium when the chance is given.

        I feel STR could outperform RBR and FI at the beginning of the season but I expect them to fall behind as the season advance. Following last year, I think the battle will be close between RBR and FI for fourth place on WCC.

    7. Vijay Mallya has fled India on March 2, he is considered a willful defaulter owing over a Billion $ to Indian PSU Banks and the pressure is pilling up on the govt. to book him for frauds. I hope he is extradited back to India and brought to justice. His assets in India are being frozen as we speak.

      Force India is still owned by Vijay Mallya, but Diageo can actually take over if it wanted as it holds the shares as security.

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