Mallya and Szafnauer full of anticipation about 2013 season

Mallya and Szafnauer answer questions about the Sahara Force India's VJM06 and the coming season.

Bob Fernley Chairman’s Introduction

The beginning of a new Formula One season is always a time of great excitement for the fans, the media and everyone at Sahara Force India. As one of the most popular sports, Formula One has appeal in all corners of the globe, especially among Indians who take inspiration from seeing man and machine compete at the pinnacle of motorsport.

I am full of anticipation about what 2013 has in store and I have the utmost faith that we will deliver another competitive showing to build on the momentum of last year. 2012 was our most successful season to date in terms of points scored and demonstrated the potential of this team. It is confirmation that we are moving in the right direction and gives me every reason to be optimistic for the future.

Bob Fernley and Paul di Resta, Sahara Force India F1 Team unveil the VJM06
Bob Fernley and Paul di Resta, Sahara Force India F1 Team unveil the VJM06

Photo by: XPB Images

2013 marks the sixth year of India having its own Formula One team, which is a matter of great pride for the entire nation. I am delighted that together with Dr. Vijay Mallya, who has played a pivotal role in establishing India on the Formula One map and giving India its own Formula One Team, we have been successful in accelerating the team’s performance towards becoming a competitive force to be reckoned with.

We will continue putting all our energy into strengthening Sahara Force India and I am convinced that we have all the ingredients in place to take the fight to the teams around us.

Dr Vijay Mallya Team Principal and Managing Director

Dr Mallya, the new season is upon us. How excited are you to see the VJM06 come to life? I think everyone in the team is very excited about this car and eager to go testing and see where we stand. With stable technical rules the VJM06 doesn’t look massively different compared to its predecessor, but beneath the skin we’ve looked at every detail to try and find more performance. I’ve followed the development of the car closely and feel proud of what we have achieved so far.

You’ve given great consideration to the driver line-up for this season. Are you closer to finalising things? Paul will race with us for a third season. He has delivered some great performances for us over the last two years and gives us the consistency we need going into 2013. He had a difficult end to last season, but we’ve worked hard to understand those issues and I believe he can step up another level this year. As for his teammate, we had a shortlist and have considered every driver who is available. We are very close to making our decision and I can assure you that we will arrive in Australia with one of the most exciting pairings on the grid.

The Sahara Force India VJM06
The Sahara Force India VJM06

Photo by: XPB Images

You announced an investment programme for the team late last year. How is that progressing? The programme is underway and we are currently looking for the land to build our new wind tunnel. The team has done a remarkable job with the resources that we already have, but if we want to realise our long-term ambitions we need to give our engineers the best tools available, starting with a state-of-the-art wind tunnel. The more immediate benefits of our investment are already in place for 2013 with greater CFD capacity.

What will be the objectives for the year ahead? We begin 2013 hungrier than ever before. We ended last season with a very competitive car and we even led for 30 laps in Brazil. That’s given everyone a taste of what it feels like to race at the front and shows what we can achieve when everything comes together. We were unlucky to miss out on a podium last year on several occasions so that is certainly a clear ambition for the year ahead. The first objective is to hit the ground running and have a strong start to the season. That’s been our weakness for the last couple of seasons so we need to build on the momentum and carry on where we left off in 2012.

Otmar Szafnauer, Sahara Force India F1 Chief Operating Officer
Otmar Szafnauer, Sahara Force India F1 Chief Operating Officer

Photo by: XPB Images

Q&A with Otmar Szafnauer Chief Operating Officer

Otmar, how did the team approach the winter and its preparations for this season? The technical regulations haven’t changed much and the sporting regulations just slightly, so we haven’t had a huge upheaval. It’s just a continuation of last year’s development really. However, operationally we’ve made some improvements over the winter.

Can you elaborate on that? We’ve strengthened race engineering and our strategy group, and our simulator programme has been bolstered. We have a dedicated simulator engineering team now, which we didn’t have last year, and increasing simulator time will bring a benefit to our race programme. We’ve significantly increased our CFD capability with new hardware, along with an increase in human resources. Operationally those were the big changes. Our focus over the winter has also been on improving our pit stop times and consistency. We need faster pit stops, and faster more often.

How would you define the team’s targets for the season? I think the general aim is to continue with the car performance we showed towards the end of last year and successfully introduce the operational improvements. From a global perspective, that is what we are looking to do. For what place we will be fighting, I can’t tell you yet. From a car standpoint and operationally, yes, we’re looking to improve. Where we left off at the end of last year was a very good place – at times we were often the fourth quickest car on the circuit. So there are lots of reasons to be optimistic we can build on that.

Dr Mallya spoke last year of increased capital investment. Is the new CFD infrastructure part of that? Yes that’s part of it and the wind tunnel is the other part. We’ve embarked on a programme to build a new tunnel, but that will not help this year or 2014. In fact it could detract from it – if we are busy fitting a new tunnel, we have to be very careful that we don’t take our eye off the ball.

You mentioned 2014 - at what stage will the team switch its development focus from the VJM06 to the first turbo car? It’s a difficult one. You’ve got to understand where you are in the championship and whether you can gain or lose a place, and if you can’t, then you can switch your resources earlier. If you can gain, then you have to decide what proportion of those resources you switch so you don’t shoot yourself in the foot in the current season in order to get a bit of an advantage for next year.

2012 was a very competitive season up and down the field. Do you expect to see more of the same? Because the rules haven’t changed that much I think it will be a continuation of 2012. It went down to the last race and I think 2013 will be equally as exciting, whether it’s in the midfield, or up front. It will be interesting to see if any teams can do a better job than they did last year and move forward – which of course is what we are looking to do. We’re very optimistic. We’ve been working hard over the winter, trying to make improvements where we know we can find performance and we look forward to starting winter testing.

Sahara Force India

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Series F1
Article type Interviews
Tags f1, mercedes, force india, di resta, mallya, green, sahara, fernley, szafnauer

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