Force India F1's 2008 challenger, the VJM01, may be based on its predecessor but Force India are keen to point out the new car has undergone much development. Force India F1 Team. Photo by xpb.cc. The VJM01, named after team's...
Force India F1's 2008 challenger, the VJM01, may be based on its predecessor but Force India are keen to point out the new car has undergone much development.
The VJM01, named after team's owners, Dr. Vijay Mallya and Jan and Michiel Mol is an evolution of the B-spec Spyker F8-VII that was inherited by Force India's purchase of the Spyker operation.
The Spyker Formula One car was initially launched at the 2007 Italian Grand Prix. Development throughout the year at its United Kingdom base and wind tunnels in Brackley, England and Aerolab, Italy, meant the B-spec car represented a significant step forward for the small Silverstone-based team, with new mechanical and aerodynamic packages.
This year's challenger is a continuation of this development, as Force India chief technical officer, Mike Gascoyne explains: "The 2008 car is based on the B-spec car we introduced at the end of last year. We have carried the chassis over from 2007 to 2008, but the car we run at the Australian Grand Prix will have numerous aerodynamic and mechanical updates.
"Aerodynamically, there has been a complete rework of the car. With our two wind tunnels in Brackley and Italy now operating full time, we have been able to make a lot of progress in the aero department."
"Almost every aero feature on the car will have been revised," continued Gascoyne. "The car we race with in Melbourne however will just be the start of a continuous cycle of aerodynamic improvement over the season."
As well as the aerodynamic make over the car has undergone several mechanical and chassis upgrades.
"In some respects we have been able to make bigger improvements by changing fewer parts on the car, which has enabled us to focus more resources on key areas," states Gascoyne.
Last season the rear suspension geometry was significantly revised, with the rotary dampers replaced with linear ones. There is a new gearbox designed to complying with the new 2008 gearbox rules where the gearbox must be used for four races.
The engine installation was also reviewed to make cooling resources lighter, more compact and much more efficient as Gascoyne commented, "We are looking at significant improvements in the rear suspension and also some systems to improve reliability from last year.
"The B-spec gearbox we introduced was always aimed at four races, and obviously we had the benefit of testing it at the final races of the year. 'We've now run many miles on that gearbox and we are very confident that we are very reliable in this area for 2008."
The development in these key areas has largely been facilitated by a significant restructure of Force India's technical department at the end of 2007.
Mark Smith, a veteran of Jordan Grand Prix, Renault and Red Bull, joined the team as design director working under the direction of Gascoyne and alongside technical director James Key.
While the new car is being developed, much of the focus is still on producing a car for 2009 which will represent a significant step forward.
Gascoyne said, "... we have had significant new staff come on board in Mark Smith and also Ian Hall, who worked with the team in its Jordan days. Hall will be a project leader for the 2009 car."
Gascoyne believes that the new team structure will drive the team forward: "We will see a strong impact on the 2008 car and beyond."
The new VJM01 will test for the first time today (Monday the 25th February) at the Barcelona test, just two weeks before the first race of the season.
Gascoyne does not believe this will be a disadvantage, as the team has completed some strong work over the winter. "We've been testing new parts and looking at reliability.
"Last year was very frustrating, but now we are in a position to move forward from a much more competitive baseline. Certainly you will see that with the new development we should look to racing properly with the midfield as soon as possible," he continued.
The first F1 race is now tantalizingly close so there will not be much of a wait to see how much progress the individual teams have made during the winter months.
While Force India F1 are not going to be troubling the front runners, they have determination to move up the order. They now have a good level of funding and a number of well proven team members to do just that.