Can Force India become more than ‘customer class champions’?

2017 F1 season preview: Force India

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An outstanding 2016 campaign for Force India resulted in the team’s best championship position to date. But they are eager to challenge the expectation that they cannot realistically rise any higher and break into the top three.

Last year the gap between fourth-placed Force India and third-placed Ferrari was, by any measure, huge. With double their points tally Force India would still have finished in fourth place. In financial terms, the gulf between them and the leading teams is measured in a nine-figure sum.

Instead of worrying about the teams in front of them, so conventional thinking goes, they should be more concerned about the rising threat behind them. Renault is an obvious competitor, and a minor war of words between its team boss Cyril Abiteboul and Force India co-owner Vijay Mallya was the first shot in what could be a year-long battle on the track.

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The team which started life as Jordan in 1991 is heading into its tenth year as Force India. In that time it has steadily re-established itself as a competitive force. Adopting the Toyota wind tunnel for its development at the end of 2014 was a significant turning point, and the team made great strides with its unique development of the 2014-16 aerodynamic rules.

Faced with a rules reset for 2017, the team appears not to have sustained its late-2016 momentum. Evidently no concessions have been made towards aesthetics with the VJM10, but its testing performance was unspectacular and it will apparently go on a diet before it reappears in Melbourne. It will also have a fresh lick of salmon pink paint in deference to a new sponsor.

The team is in better shape than it was in late 2014. It is now producing more parts in-house which has reduced its dependence on external suppliers and allowed it to react more quickly to change. But it will be hoping Formula One’s new owners make good on their plans to address the sport’s distribution of its prize money which is strongly slanted against these independent outfits which are part of its lifeblood.


11. Sergio Perez

The former McLaren driver’s stock rose higher last season with a pair of podiums and another strong showing against Nico Hulkenberg. But while his feel for nursing the most out of Pirelli’s high degradation tyres has served him well since he came into the sport, it remains to be seen whether that will still apply on their new generation of harder tyres. The team will look to him for leadership alongside the inexperienced Ocon.

31. Esteban Ocon

The contrasts between Ocon and fellow Mercedes-engined rookie Lance Stroll are striking. Both are F3 champions, but Ocon won his crown against a much stronger field (including Max Verstappen) then picked up the GP3 title before getting his F1 chance. Ocon quickly got to grips with the Manor in the second half of last season and there was little to choose between him and Perez in testing.

Poll: Which Force India driver will finish ahead in the championship?

Which Force India driver will finish ahead in the championship?

  • Esteban Ocon (28%)
  • Sergio Perez (72%)

Total Voters: 170

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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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39 comments on “Can Force India become more than ‘customer class champions’?”

  1. Evil Homer (@)
    16th March 2017, 11:58

    I voted Checo but don’t be surprised if Ocon doesn’t give him some pressure, especially in the 2nd half of the season.

    1. @evilhomer
      Same here, I expect the qualifying battle will go to Ocon though. It will largely depend on how the new tyres affect Perez’s ability to work alternative strategies.

  2. petebaldwin (@)
    16th March 2017, 11:58

    They’ll have to be careful… If they they get too good, Mercedes and Ferrari will get scared and FI will be stuck with a Honda or Renault engine….

  3. Don’t agree with this point of view Keith

    Instead of worrying about the teams in front of them, so conventional thinking goes, they should be more concerned about the rising threat behind them.

    Even if the teams behind you are closer than the ones in front, as a sport they should always aim to the top, even if they fail to reach it, and that is likely with FI, chances are they will land somewhere in the middle, hopefully for them, that middle will enable them to close the gap to the ones in front and increase it to the ones behind.

    Taking into account the last few years, FI is the midfield team that I most respect, they go after talent to fill their seats, they overcome teams with bigger budgets and got a best ever 4th last year in the standings. They have set a bold gold for 2017, and most of us won’t be surprised if they don’t reach it, but at least they are confident in themselves to set that sort of objective.

    1. Pat Ruadh (@fullcoursecaution)
      16th March 2017, 12:27

      Not standing in the way of Hulk racing in Le Mans also saw them shoot up in my estimation. It showed a racing spirit rarely seen in today’s corporate F1. Sadly, with Wehrleins ROC incident I can imagine this scenario becoming even less likely now. Maybe we will see RoGro or K-Mag in NASCAR soon though, that would be pretty cool.

      1. Not standing in the way of Hulk racing in Le Mans also saw them shoot up in my estimation. It showed a racing spirit rarely seen in today’s corporate F1. Sadly, with Wehrlein’s ROC incident I can imagine this scenario becoming even less likely now.

        @fullcoursecaution Indeed, although I thought the same after Kubica’s crash in 2011.

        1. Funnily enough Kubicas replacement, a certain finn, injured his wrist while competing, allegedly drunk, in a snowmobile race in austria within days of his announcment as a Lotus driver.

          1. @mrboerns Didn’t know Nick Heidfeld was finnish, or that into snowmobiles!!!!!

    2. @johnmilk FI have also gone slightly off-sequence in their development during the 2014-2016 regs, starting their 2015 and 2016 seasons with revised/half-way adapted versions of their last season car and then come strong and have a fully updated car with the beginning of the european season. They obviously can’t do that for 2017, and they don’t seem to have compromised their 2016-performance one bit. I’m prepared to call it a success “light” if they come 5th in the constructors this year, especially since Renault has become a fully funded works team. If they can beat Renault and Williams (and Toro Rosso and McLaren ^^) for 4th, that’s full success.

  4. If Williams can dream about returning to the top flight of F1, there’s no reason why Force India should limit there aspirations to holding on to fourth place. Not that I think the VJM10 is the car to do it…

    1. *their aspirations

  5. I fervently hope the new pink Farce India is as much of a pig as it will look and they manage to finish dead last in every race, even behind McLaren

    1. Your obviously not a Formula one fan.

    2. Wow. Hating a team because they secured a sponsor that enables them to exist and pay the bills. I really don’t understand your comment. Did you bang your head or forget to take your tablets?

    3. This is the most blunt comment I have ever heard.

      1. Nothing to do with the actual sponsor themselves, or even really the colour of the car, I just have a huge dislike of Mallya and his team since they started

        1. Fudge Kobayashi (@)
          16th March 2017, 17:00

          Mallya, understandable to a degree. But a lot of those team members have been in F1 for years and the wealth of experience is what allows them to punch well above their budget. They deserve respect.

          Also the way you worded your comment is in poor taste

          1. Fudge Kobayashi (@)
            16th March 2017, 17:01

            I should add, they have been with that team for years also, way before it was called Force India.

        2. And yet you mentioned the colour in your first post. I’m convinced that you are off your meds or schizophrenic. How about taking time to write down what you actually mean, it’s what sane people do. You are entitled to your opinions but you have a weird way of communicating.

          1. How about instead of making ridiculous comments about medication and severe mental illness, you take the time to re read my initial post and realise that what I mean, I have already said.

            I hope Force India finish dead last every race, and their car is a complete pig, and ironically the car is now the same colour as one.

            But the seems to be too hard for you to understand

          2. @sam3110

            their car is a complete pig, and ironically the car is now the same colour as one.

            To be honest that was also too hard for me to understand at first read. (internet jokes don’t always work well :( )

    4. While I’m not on the same page as Sam3110 regarding FI finishing dead last (because the more teams racing at the front the better) I agree with his sentiment regarding VJM and FI in general. Never warmed to the team. So while I wish them no ill, there are other teams whos success would make me happier.

  6. Ocon is a future superstar. Don’t be surprised if he does Perez this year (especially with Perez’ main strenght being voided)

  7. Force india did not do qualifying simulation during testing as they were overweight, now the question is how serious is the design flaw?, and sergio is not satisfied with the car. force india has been tight lipped about the problem. i think its going down for force india this season.

  8. I’m sure they’d be tickled pink if they keep their 4th place this year.

    1. Josh (@canadianjosh)
      18th March 2017, 2:00

      Haha beauty comment!

  9. Surprised most people didn’t vote for Ocon. I admire SFI but I doubt they’ll be able to do any better.

  10. Went for Perez. though as mentioned in the article will be interesting to see how this goes with no more designed to degrade tyres

  11. Voted Ocon

    Cause I think Perez’s strength of tyre management can’t be used this year.

  12. The gulf in the quality of the driver line up between Williams and Force India is stark, unless Force India have struggled to match the other midfield teams in the off-season with the VJM10 its difficult to see how Williams will beat them in 2017. Perez and Ocon is a great driver pairing.

    I think the pink livery looks great, will be fun to see pink topped caps in the crowd at races this year.

  13. Must admit it does surprise me how a manufacturer hasn’t waded in on force India yet, what a starting base it would be.. maybe another strong year might catch someone’s eye.. I’m sure Vijay wouldn’t turn down the pay check haha!

  14. Force India has two solid drivers again this season. I am keen to see how Ocon perform against Perez. This could be a year where squeezing time out of the corners is more important than tyre management. From the team perspective, consolidating 4th position should be the aim. Williams may seemingly have a weaker driver lineup, but the car seems to be all right. Breaching top 3 is still a bridge too far.

    1. Raveendhana
      18th March 2017, 9:40

      At present force india car does not look alright to me.

  15. Josh (@canadianjosh)
    17th March 2017, 10:52

    Oh my god, I couldn’t even read the headline because that car looks like a pig.

  16. I read a few comments that were blunt, downright rude. Dislike can be shared differently in this universe where other’s favorite driver may be someone I hate. Likewise for the team. Some of the negativity around Vijay Mallya has always impacted the team, but this team has been punching above their weight for long. It means they are doing better than other teams – and if you cannot digest that, well so be it.

    I do not like Lewis, and supported Nico to win the championship. And all the Lewis fans immediately pointed out engine issues and fake champion stupidity. I am guessing that Nico did not read them. From winning and retiring from the sport at the top, he left a champion.

    ForceIndia will compete, whether they reach 4th spot or not is what season will tell us. You can hold off your hate, so the others can enjoy the season while it lasts.

    1. +1

    2. Josh (@canadianjosh)
      18th March 2017, 1:57

      I called it a pig in reference to a pig being pink, we re after all talking about the colour of a car here man, if you think it is downright rude to call a car a pig, you have some head case issues. I get it’s 2017 and everything needs to be politically correct but holy cow.

  17. Force India have been punching above their weight the last few seasons and fourth in the Constructors championship last year was great achievement.

    If they manage to maintain that positions this year I think it will be more down to other teams with more resources underperforming, while it wouldn’t be a massive surprise for them to achieve fourth again I think it would be more likely that they drop back down the order a place or two.

    Because of Ocon’s lack of experience I wouldn’t say that their driver line-up is as strong as last year, but Ocon is not a bad replacement for Hulkenberg and should provide a challenge for Perez but I expect Perez to finish ahead in the championship.

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