If you had told us a few years ago that Force India would be challenging Red Bull, we’d have thought you were nuts. Toro Rosso, sure, but the four-time world champions? Such is the state of Formula One today, and Force India isn’t backing off – with or without its team principal.
The team known today as Force India started out in 1991 as Jordan Grand Prix, and was a perennial back-marker for decades (albeit not without some bouts of competitiveness and a even a handful of victories).
Jordan sold out to Midland in 2005, which in turn became Spyker before Indian businessman Vijay Mallya bought the team in 2007. In the decade since, Force India has been climbing steadily up the order, from near last in 2008 to fourth place last season.
That’s the position where it stands today, with Mercedes in the lead, being challenged by Ferrari, Red Bull in third, and Force India just behind. But as Autosport points out, the team’s performance comes despite – not because of – its speed relative to the competition, or for that matter for its proven drivers.
Though it’s finished every race with both cars in the points, Force India has yet (in the four grands prix so far this season) to land on the podium. But it has some updates in store for the next round in Spain that could close the gap in terms of speed, and with superior strategy, it could be in prime position to pass Red Bull.
This despite the turmoil in the Force India’s leadership. Team owner and principal Vijay Mallya has been confined to the UK for the past year pending his extradition back to India over charges of financial misconduct and embezzlement, and hasn’t actually been to a race since the British Grand Prix last season. In his place, deputy team principal Robert Fernley has been calling the shots trackside and running the day-to-day.
“Right from day one we set our stall out in Australia knowing we had a slight performance deficit, with a view to using racecraft, strategy and reliability to overcome that – and that’s what we’ve done,” Fernley told Autosport. “If we can just get that performance deficit dealt with, I think it could be an incredibly exciting second half of the season.”