03/02/2012

Paddock Chatter!

It's been a busy day of news today; Force India revealed their 2012 challenger, the VJM05, and Narain Karthikeyan re-signed for HRT for the forthcoming season.

Here is what everyone had to say:

Force India VJM05

Vijay Mallya (Force India's team principle/managing director): 
"We have set our sights on challenging for fifth place. To do so we will need to begin the new campaign by delivering the kind of form we showed in the second half of 2011. I believe this is a realistic goal and that we have the talent and determination to realise these ambitions".

Robert Fernley (Force India's deputy team principal):
"I think the team now has got to a position where the reconstruction plan has really come to the fruition of its objectives. We have to look for where we can go to compete with the top four or five. That's another programme and that's what we're discussing. I don't think Vijay will accept anything less than fifth". 

"I was pleased we didn't finish fifth [in 2011] in some ways because then [the target] would've been fourth. It's going to be tough. All the teams out there are capable of fifth, and I think the battle for fifth place is going to be as exciting as the battle at the top. All the teams have got talented people who are just as focused as we are and it's not going to be an easy ride by any means".

"I don't think we are taking a gamble [on a young driver lineup]. Driver succession is important to us. I think outside of, or maybe including, the top four, we've got one of the most exciting driver lineups, so I'm not worried at all". The system Force India operate with bringing them through one year [as reserve drivers] makes the difference with them being able to be competitive from day one. It's a very clearly thought out process."

[About dropping Adrian Sutil] "It was a very difficult decision, Adrian did have an exceptional season, he is an extremely talented driver, and as importantly an extremely nice person who fitted in well with the team. But we had to look at where we felt our long-term strengths lay. Adrian had been with us for a number of years, and we genuinely believed the future with us was with Paul and Nico. It wasn't something we rushed into, but we had very clear ideas as to where we wanted to build the team for the future. It was a close decision, and we felt it was time for Adrian to gain experience outside of Force India. We also looked at the whole package, in terms of his raw speed, what he was doing for the team in terms of feedback, knowledge and everything else, and we felt Nico edged it".

[About Adrian's court case] "What I am not sure of, and we've not been able to take it in yet, is what the impact will be on Adrian's racing career. We were under enormous pressure after China last year to do something about it. But Vijay and I were very clear that Adrian was innocent until proven guilty, and that we were there to support him, and not to undermine him in any way. I'm disappointed for Adrian because I don't think he deserves it, he doesn't have a bad thought or bone in his body. It wasn't typical of him at all. I don't think it will affect him totally, but sponsors and everybody else might have some different views. From our point of view it wouldn't have affected us. Vijay and Sahara are strong enough to be able to say what we want is talent, he made a mistake, he's been judged, and we'll go on. However, I don't know how other teams will look at it, and I also don't know the legal implications, such as can he go into China? They are things we would have to understand if he was with us".

Otmar Szafnauer (Force India's chief operating officer):
"The new car has come together nicely over the winter. We don't know what our competitors have done, but we’ve made some gains over the winter and believe we're in reasonable shape. It's going to be difficult in the midfield, but our focus is on starting strongly and improving our position from last season".

Andrew Green (Force India's technical director):
"We think most will follow our philosophy [about the dippy nose]. It is an aero philosophy that McLaren apply to the front of their car, last year they were the only team to apply that. There's a regulation change on the nose height and we went with the drop nose. For us, it's not big deal, it's purely aesthetics".
 

[About the 5th place target] "It's a big ask for a small team like ourselves but I've got a lot of confidence in the team around me, we learned a lot last year and made big strides in our understanding of car performance and aerodynamics. We are taking that another step this year, you can see that in the detail on the car and see the new aero philosophies coming through on it. This is another chapter for Force India. [last year] We were a little bit late to the party and I don't think we extracted its full potential by a long way," said Green. I think there are teams out there that extracted way more than we did and hopefully that will hurt them more than it's going to hurt us. We spent the winter trying to salvage back all that downforce that it cost us and we're getting closer".
 

[About the new technical regulations] "My feeling is that it should close the field up, I think you need to look at Silverstone, where the regs changed for a fraction of a second, and the grid did appear to close up. The biggest change for us is the aerodynamic philosophy on the car, starting on the front and the new front wing, which sets up all the basic structures down the car, that's a big step for us. It took us quite a long time getting ourselves out of the old philosophy. We did some testing last year trying to move away from it and then we used that knowledge over the winter to come up with the new concept at the front. It's a big departure from where we have been before, and the tunnel numbers are really, really encouraging so we're quite looking forward to getting on the track and seeing if it does produce what it should do". 

Andrew also did a Q&A session with F1.com here.

Paul Di Resta (Force India driver):
“Seeing the new car built and complete for the first time is always an exciting moment. It’s when you realise that all the waiting is finally over and the season is beginning for real. I’ve had a good winter and I’ve recharged my batteries, but now I’m fully focused on 2012 and looking forward to the start of testing. There’s a really positive feeling in the team, good stability and hopefully we can pick up where we left off at the end of last year.”

"The big thing we're going for is a stronger start than last year, because the momentum at the end of the year was incredible, i think the guys should be very proud of what they've achieved. We're still on a buzz from that and it would be great to start where we left off. We were very close to coming fifth as a constructor last year and we met our ambition of coming sixth. We want to do better, that's the main focus. We'll just keep pushing on".

"I think there's always pressure in any sport but yeah there's a little more as I'm not a rookie anymore, there is that nature there to try and beat your teammate, but we're there to represent Force India and you need to look at the whole team".

"[The threat posed by a third driver] always concerns you, because how stable is Formula 1 at the moment? You need to focus on your own driving. But one thing you can say about what Force India have done - it's a great way to get involved in Formula 1."

Paul also did a Q&A session with F1.com here.

Nico Hulkenberg (Force India driver):
"I saw the new car in the wind tunnel a few times and followed its progress during the winter. It looks aggressive and fast, but we won’t know where we stand until we get out there and compete against the others. Preparations for the new season have been full-on with simulator sessions and lots of fitness training. I feel ready to get back to racing and I’m excited to find out what the new car feels like next week".

"A year on the sidelines wasn't easy for me but I had a great year with Force India, they gave me lots of chances to prove my talent on Friday mornings. I kept sharp that way and now I'm back. I think I still improved and learned, but in different ways. I picked up some things that might help me in races".

Nico did a Q&A session for F1.com too, read it here.

Jules Bianchi (Force India's reserve driver):
"For the moment we have a minimum of nine Friday mornings, so it's going to be really important, the track time in Formula 1 is really useful for a young driver like me. I will just try to do my best, try to show the team I deserve more. I am reserve driver, I will stay in this position and try to help them as much as I can.

Gary Anderson (BBC and Autosport Technical analyst/correspondent):
[About Force India] "I'm impressed and, including what I've seen of the Ferrari, this looks like the best overall package yet, the car looks very good in all areas. The exhausts are a bit non-committal, but that can change easily".

If you have not yet done so I urge you to take a look at the awesome pictures of the VJM05 on the SkySportsF1 website here.

Narain's HRT Deal


Narain Karthikeyan (HRT's second driver):
"I wasn't driving the car regularly [last year] but got up to speed very quickly, that's when I knew that I should try and stay if there was a possibility. Things came together although obviously there was a lot of competition for the seat. Four or five drivers with budgets were trying to get the seat, but the team believes that I am fast."

"The team changes were good changes, the new management has a strong structure and financial backing for the project. There are a lot of positives. A good example is Pedro [Narain's teammate]. He could have had an easy life and stayed as a McLaren test driver, but he has come here because he knows that the team has a big future. I have a similar outlook to Pedro. Everything is in place and we should be in a good position. Things don't change overnight and we will have to wait and see how the new car is, but it will be a decent package."

Read a Q&A session Narain did with F1.com here.

That's everything for now!! If you've come this far and read everything in this article then you certainly are a true Indian Motorsport fan - kudos to you :-)

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