Could Force India have beaten Red Bull had its B-spec car made an earlier debut? Jonathan Noble looks at the data.
For a team whose cashflow problems meant its 2015 Formula 1 car failed to make the first two tests this year, Force India ultimately emerged as one of the late surprises of the campaign.
Its strong form – as it regularly got through to Q3 and challenged some of the bigger budget teams – was such that it left team chiefs pondering just what might have been.
Was there a chance it could even have overhauled the Red Bull team had it had its new car on track from the start?
As COO Otmar Szafnauer said after Abu Dhabi, when asked if he ever wondered if the team could have been beaten Red Bull in the constructors' points if the B-spec had come earlier: "Absolutely.
"We had proper pace at the end of the year – and were ahead of the Red Bulls by then.
"I sometimes listened to the television commentary, and I remember Sky speaking to Christian Horner on the pit wall at one time saying they were going to give Daniel Ricciardo the green light to overtake Sergio Perez.
"I just sat there and thought, 'it ain't going to happen.'"
But is the talk of the team having had a chance to beat Red Bull real, or just wishful thinking? Let's look at the maths.
Having operated without much fanfare in the early stages of the year, the B-spec car that arrived at the British Grand Prix proved to be a pretty solid platform for some impressive performances thereafter.
Sergio Perez's podium finish in Russia – albeit thanks in part to the last-lap clash between Kimi Raikkonen and Valtteri Bottas – was an obvious highlight.
But it is when you start poring over the data of how the car performed that you realise how much more the team could have achieved if it had had its B-spec car from the season.
Force India's car appeared at the British Grand Prix – round nine of the championship – with the team having scored a total of 31 points up until that point. That meant it had an average strike rate of 3.875 points per race.
Over the final 11 rounds of the world championship, Force India added another 105 points to its tally – 9.545 points per race.
To put that in context, more than 77 percent of its points were scored with its B-spec car, showing what genuine progress it had delivered.
But while the B-spec car never allowed the team to close the points gap between itself and the ever-improving Red Bull – with the margin widening from 24 points pre-Silverstone to 51 points by the end of the campaign – what is more debatable is what would have happened if the B-spec had arrived in Melbourne.
Had the car been able to deliver the points per race it managed from Silverstone onwards, then Force India's point tally would have been 76 points from the first half of the campaign.
Add that to the 105 it scored once it was introduced, and the team would ended the year on 181 points, six shy of Red Bull's final tally.
Then we get in to territory of whether Force India would have taken points away from Red Bull early on, or made a bigger push at the end to not concede ground?
Whichever way you look at it, it was certainly close enough to have suggested Force India would have had a shot of beating its nearest rival.
While digging into the stats shows how close Force India may have come to Red Bull, its form at the end of the year has at least raised hopes of it delivering better in 2016.
It is hopeful that an advance of TV rights money from Bernie Ecclestone will be approved, to help alleviate the cash flow dramas of 12 months ago.
And that will allow it to hit the ground running when testing begins in February.
Szafnauer added: "The regulations don't change drastically, so whatever we've done this year will apply to next year. We will have a good base to start.
"We should be good. The team is gelling and we don't have a lot of turnover – and stability helps in this business."
The message from Force India is clear: Red Bull had better look over its shoulders.