Force India was the latest team to launch their 2011 contender today, following an avalanche of team launches the past week. Team Principal and team owner Indian Dr. Vijay Mallya and his staff presented the new VJM04 to the media during an...
Force India reveal VJM04 contender on the world wide web
Force India was the latest team to launch their 2011 contender today, following an avalanche of team launches the past week. Team Principal and team owner Indian Dr. Vijay Mallya and his staff presented the new VJM04 to the media during an online-launch event this afternoon.
Chief Operating Officer Otmar Szafnauer is adamant Force India is ready for the 2011 season, and they are aiming to land fifth position in the Constructors' Championship. Since they took over the Spyker team, Force India have made steady progress, which last year resulted in their best performance ever. They started at the back of the field, but Force India are now a mid-field contender.
The Silverstone-based team is confident ahead of this season, although they are still a small team, all people involved are totally dedicated. Asked whether it will be difficult to compete with the big guys, Szafnauer replied: "We probably have half the personnel as some of the bigger teams, and they also have more resources. However, we know that's where we are. We have a dynamic workforce that works well together, and we know what we have to do, and we go out and do it."
Last week Force India announced they had extended their partnership with McLaren Applied Technologies, this year the team will again use the Mercedes-Benz engine, while McLaren will supply the gearboxes and hydraulics. With the Mercedes-Benz V8 engine and the McLaren drive train, the team now effectively runs the same package as the McLaren team. With this extension of the partnership Force India hopes to create a stable technical base until the end of 2012, when new engine regulations will be introduced.
Szafnauer about the McLaren partnership, "The partnership with McLaren has helped the team already, we purchase the gearbox and hydraulics systems from McLaren, which allows the rest of our small team to concentrate on the areas of performance differentiation, mainly the aerodynamics and the remainder of the mechanical package." Szafnauer also thinks the McLaren package is more reliable which will help them to finish races and score points.
A closer look at the VJM04
There is no way around it, the VJM04 bears all the hallmarks of the 2011 season, a high-pitched nose section, a new front wing design and narrower and smoother back section of the car with the now familiar adjustable rear wing. The center part of the front wing guides the air to the floor of the car, the flaps on either side of the wing generate the down force, and the wing endplates guide the air round the front wheels with the new Pirelli tyres. The airbox is no longer positioned directly behind the driver's head, but has been moved to the left and right side of the engine cover, just behind the roll hoop.
The car is still painted in the familiar red, white and green livery, the colors of the Indian flag. Responsible for the design of the VJM04 is Technical Director Andrew Green. About how the changes in the regulations had their influence on the design of the car he said, "The VJM04 is mechanically very straightforward and an evolution of the VLM03. But undoubtedly the biggest changes that we saw over the winter are aerodynamic, with the removal of the double diffuser that resulted in quite a substantial loss of down force, which we spent the winter trying to recover."
About the KERS he said, "The KERS packaging was relatively straight forward, incorporating the Mercedes system, which we believe is very strong, involves very few compromises in the chassis, it is located under the fuel cell, and we believe that will be a strong advantage to us in 2011." Green also said the shape of the engine cover has changed as a result of the ban on the F-Duct. When asked if there were any radical changes on the VJM04 he said: "The car is an evolution and we have taken all we learned last year and tried to move it up another step, so nothing radical yet."
Drivers Adrian Sutil and Paul di Resta
German Adrian Sutil is an experienced driver and made his Formula One debut with the former Spyker team back in 2007. The now 28-year old driver stayed loyal to his team when Mallya and Dutch businessman Michiel Mol took over the Dutch team in 2008, and renamed it Force India. It will be his fifth season, and Sutil, who is well known for his consistent driving, is confident he is up to the job.
Asked about KERS and the new rear wing he said, "I think it is a challenge, I'm always happy to have some changes. Those will be probably very helpful in overtaking and for more action in the races. I think we have a strong partner with Mercedes KERS, it should be very good for us." And the adjustable rear wing? "Well let's see how it goes, there are a lot of things to test first. When it comes to the race, for sure we will see more overtaking this year."
Asked whether the new Pirellis have a sudden drop in performance Sutil answered: "I think they do. On one side it is tough for the drivers and a challenge to manage the high degradation, but on the other hand it will make racing more exciting. We'll probably see more than one pit stop, so I think for the outside world, for the spectators, it will have quite a positive effect."
Paul di Resta will make his Formula One debut this year after he won the 2010 DTM (Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters) championship. Di Resta has always had his eye on Formula One, and he had already been linked to the Force India team for some time. Last week Force India finally confirmed the 24- year old Scot would replace Italian Vitantonio Liuzzi.
Asked whether he's prepared for this season he commented: "I've tried to prepare myself as best as possible, and the team fortunately gave me a good opportunity last year, they got me involved in as much tasks as they could, and I have tried to learn as much as possible over the winter." Di Resta about the extra things drivers will have to do in the cockpit this year, "The workload in the cockpit has increased, I think mentally it's going to be more tougher, because you are going to be thinking a lot more about these things like the KERS and the adjustable rear wing."
Nico Hulkenberg, who lost his Williams race seat to Pastor Maldonado will be the team's official test and reserve driver. How does he feel about being a test and reserve driver? "Well, obviously, I have one crying eye to not have a race seat this year, on the other hand, I'm still in Formula One, I'm still here, I get the opportunity to drive a Formula One car this year." And added, "I'm happy with the team and I'm looking forward to a good relationship with the team this year." The German will be present at all venues this year and will be driving the Force India VJM04 during Friday's first practice session.
Force India's expectations for 2011
As other small teams, Force India is poised to become a regular podium finisher, and intend to challenge the established teams this year. Last year they finished seventh in the Constructors' Championship, ahead of Toro Rosso, BMW-Sauber and the three new teams. The past years Force India have made considerable progress, and they hope to continue this progress in 2011.
Team Principal Mallya about the achievements of his team, "2010 was an exceptional year for the team, 68 points overall, seventh in the championship with only teams who had previously won world titles ahead of us, which demonstrated we are still on target to achieve our goals."
And what about this year? "This year there is even more to be optimistic about. We've got three race drivers that are hungry to take the next steps in their careers, whether that be points, podiums or wins," an optimistic Mallya said "We have an experienced technical team that have the ingenuity, flexibility and drive to adapt to the new wave of rule changes, and we also have the tools and resources in our partnerships with McLaren Applied Technologies and Mercedes-Benz High Performance Engines to aim even higher."
Szafnauer about his task this year, "Our objective is to beat Williams this year and be more competitive with the Renault. We have got to score points from the beginning, all the way throughout the season until the end. To do that we need strong developments throughout the year."
Sutil also has a clear goal, "We [the team] want to be in the top five at the end of this year, that's a big goal, let's see how it goes. Personally, as a driver I want to be in the top ten this year again, and driving against big names. I had a lot of battles last year with Michael [Schumacher] which was always very nice and I enjoyed it a lot. All drivers in the top ten are very strong, and I'm sure I'll will be having a lot of fights with those guys."
And of course di Resta is looking forward to his first real race season in Formula One. "My target is definitely to enjoy this season, it is a huge step and a lot of hard work. What I would like is to be in a competitive position and do the best job possible."
The Force India VJM04 can be seen in action on the Circuito de Jerez in Spain from February 10-13 for the second pre-season test days, where it will be put through its paces, the time tables will reveal how good and how fast the new car actually is.