Sergio Perez, Force India, Monte-Carlo, 2016

Have Force India peaked with another best-ever season?

2016 F1 season review

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In 2016 Force India reaped the benefit of the decision taken at the end of 2014 to use the former Toyota F1 wind tunnel in Cologne for development rather than the facilities at its own factory.

As the team does not have the budget of teams aligned to major car manufacturers or energy drinks brands its budget has to be spent more carefully. It has used the Toyota hardware to superb effect, pursuing a distinctive and unique solution to F1’s nose regulations which was first introduced in mid-2015.

The VJM09 raced by the team this year was a clear development of that concept. After a tentative start to the season an upgrade introduced at the Spanish Grand Prix proved the key to their season.

At first the new parts seemed to leave them lagging behind the front of the midfield, but once Force India cracked the set-up the car was a regular in Q3 and took some major points hauls.

Force India team stats 2016

Best race result (number)3 (2)
Best grid position (number) 2 (1)
Non-classifications (mechanical/other) 4 (2/2)
Laps completed (% of total) 2,302 (90.7%)
Laps led (% of total) 0 (0%)
Championship position (2015)4 (5)
Championship points (2015)173 (136)
Pit stop performance ranking4

Their biggest paydays came in Monaco and Baku where Sergio Perez added two more podiums to his collection. There could have been more had Nico Hulkenberg not spun in qualifying in Baku or picked up a puncture in Brazil.

The team’s solid driver pairing piled on the points in the second half of the season, reeling in and then overhauling the Williams pair. A best-ever finish of fourth in the constructors’ championship was sealed at the final race of the year.

Team CEO Otmar Szanfauer said the result had been a long time in the making. “The building blocks have been put in place for the last five or six years, it’s not something that happens overnight.”

“There’s a lot that goes in it: good decision-making; having the right tools and the right people, having the right engine partner – thanks for that, Toto – but also understanding the tyres, aerodynamically efficient car. You’ve got to do all those things and then the performance comes. Not to mention two good drivers.”

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While the team has said it would need to boost its budget by a nine-figure sum in order to take on the top three, deputy team principal Bob Fernley is optimistic that fourth does not represent the limit of what they can achieved.

“What is exciting for us for 2017 is that it’s the first time we are on a reasonably level playing field,” he said. “We’re not quite the same as the big teams, the big manufacturing teams, but you’ve got restricted aero programmes, it’s the first new generation car that we will do using a 60% model and I think we’ve shown already this year what we can do once we moved up to 60%, so I’m very optimistic that the team will be very competitive in 2017.”

The team will feel the loss of Hulkenberg next year – lured away by the appeal of driving for manufacturers Renault. But in Esteban Ocon they have one of the most exciting of the new crop of rookies on their hands. The only blot on their horizon is the question mark posed by co-owner Vijay Mallya’s growing legal predicament.

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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 “Have Force India peaked with another best-ever season?”

    1. I wonder what 2017 will bring them. They are hiring people fast, with job opportunities open within the team in a lot of areas, and they grabbed some good sponsorship deals. Maybe the team can stay where it is, a prominent contender for big points at every race, even with fierce competition next year but stepping up the ladder is surely impossible.

    2. I think Force India can improve for 2017, but I think this is going to be in the form of a somewhat more secure fourth than a third, unless one of the three big teams makes a mess of things. A more realistic aim would be to position Force India to try to take third in 2020 (when money is likely to be a bit more equitable), with progressive steps towards that third being made in the three seasons prior.

    3. Yes, See Jordan 1999-2000

    4. – Have Force India peaked with another best-ever season?

      Nope. I don’t think they have peaked. Force India is one of the few teams in F1 that have steadily migrated upwards in performance since they came into the sport. While some teams tend to plateau and even regress, FI have crept upwards by sheer hardwork technology-wise and good decisions especially spending-wise.
      I see their decision to sign Hulk and scoop up Perez in 2014 as a master stroke and both men have delivered with Perez being the stellar driver.
      The team have shown that they can manage their resources well and for that reason their request for more computer simulations as a choice for teams who cannot afford costly earo tests should have been approved.
      So the team might plateau or even regress a step this season if you consider the might of the teams they will be fighting for the first three positions, but I don’t expect them to stay too far away from the front anymore.

      In other news, Perez should have gone to Merc instead of Bottas for the simple fact that he is a more exciting driver than the later who is lackluster but that is my opinion.
      I also think Esteban Ocon will not disappoint.

      1. I totally agree with you!

      2. Force India is one of the few teams in F1 that have steadily migrated upwards in performance since they came into the sport.

        To add numbers to that, only once in its 9 years of existence Force India have finished in a worse position in the constructors than the year before, a 7th place in 2012 after 6th in 2011. And even that came with a near 30% increase in points.

      3. completely agree with you.. lets see what Ocon can do…

    5. Misspelling in last paragraph – says Rebault not Renault.

      What a fantastic season for FI. I expect that they will be a reliable solid chassis for next season, and it will be interesting to see how they compare to the likes of Ferrari, Renault and McLaren – all of whom have had varied success with chassis design in recent years. Fully expect them to beat Williams comfortably as it will be a year of transition for them, and more focus needed for 2018.

    6. This time next year I think it is very unlikely for the top 3 to consist of anything other than Merc, Red Bull and Ferrari. On top of this I think that there will be a lot of competition for 4th from McLaren, Renault, Torro Rosso and possibly Williams (if they manage to pull off the rule change like they did in ’14). It just seems impossible to me that Force India will keep 4th.

      That doesn’t mean FI have peaked however. Given the context of the rule change grabbing 5th or 6th next year will be just as big of an achievement as grabbing 4th this year.

    7. They have peaked in their championship position. Between Mercedes, Red Bull, Ferrari, McLaren, and maybe even Renault there are always going to be 3 big budget teams just out of reach of a team like Force India even if a couple of them drop the ball. And that’s without Williams and Torro Rosso always being in the hunt for the best of the rest mid-pack teams.

      But I’m optimistic they can snag a win in the near future. They’re realistically only good for the 3rd step of the podium, but with some luck in the right race, I can easily imagine Perez chancing into a win.

      Their best hope is a buyout by someone with deep pockets and championship aspirations. Much like Stewart GP being bought by Jaguar and then Red Bull.

      1. Great Season for FI I’d like to see them push on, though I agree 4th is most likely the ceiling.

        I do wonder if we will see more manufacturers join in again in the next few seasons? Toyota? VW?….

    8. Force India peaked when they were racing for a pole and win with fisichella back in 2011?? at spa, i cant remember the year. for now, their peaks are great race strategies with Perez, giving the occasional podium, but for pure pace, that one weekend in Spa was the peak.

      1. It was 2009

    9. in last para please correct Renault spelling, from Rebault.

      SFI may surprise again & there is a good chance that they may be in top three. Their technical team has rarely made any major mistakes and it’s a stable team. We could see few top teams get too radical or take wrong directions & this will help SFI move up the order. Not to mention it’s a team which is very motivated & focused.

    10. Fourth is a fantastic achievement with the resources they have, and I could see them consolidating it next year with a more secure fourth place. They have a mountain to climb if they’re to catch the top three though.

      It’s also a bit of a shame that, since Mercedes completely monopolise the top results and Ferrari/Red Bull pick up top results where they can, there are very few wins or even podium places trickling down to the teams a little further down the order. In 2012 and 2013 Lotus scored a win each season and a large smattering of seconds and thirds on their way to fourth in the constructors. Force India scored just two podiums and achieved the same constructors position. It would be nice if they had a little more silverware to show for what is a remarkable result

    11. The only realistic team that could bump them down is McLaren, and in the long haul Renault. If they keep working the way they do they might get another 4th next year, or even in 2018. I do not think 3rd is ever an option unless either Red Bull or Mercedes withdraw from the sport.

    12. What this team has achieved on the budget they have available, with Vijay’s financial issues hovering over the team like a black cloud, is nothing short of extraordinary. There is something inherently good in that team as they have been punching above their weight since the Jordan days. I don’t think they get enough credit for how good they are. Really nice to see it and if mixing it up at the sharp end of the grid every weekend may be an ask too far, I certainly hope they continue to consistently fight for points and doing well in the dog eat dog world that is the midfield teams.

    13. A bit sad to see FI losing the Hulkenberg – Perez duo. When they announced their 2014 line-up, I immediately was a fan. A team chose talent over money and it paid off very well. They ^deserved beating Williams this season, and I wish thgem the best for the future.

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