15/03/2012

Indian F1 involvement 2012!

Right, we've got a host of things to discuss once again; we're going to sum up pretty much everything ahead of the new F1 season so you're in for another long article!

Most of you will know that the season kicks off this weekend with the Australian GP. The start of the F1 season is always a magical moment as no-one really knows what the pecking order is. The general consensus round the paddock is that this will be one of the closest seasons ever. Personally i think Red Bull have the fastest car followed by McLaren who are much closer to Red Bull than in 2011. So Red Bull, then McLaren then i think that Lotus and Mercedes will be having a close battle for 3rd place (at least at the start of the season). Following the top four it seems to be as if Ferrari (who are struggling), Force India and Sauber will be fighting for 5th, 6th and 7th - with Toro Rosso 8th, Williams 9th, Caterham 10th (but scoring points occasionally unlike previous years) and then HRT and Marussia at the back.

Note: these are my predictions for the start of the season only, based on pre-season testing, Ferrari may struggle initially but they have the best resources on the grid to turn things around.

One interesting thing about this season will be the apparent closeness of all teams. If one the top teams (Red Bull, McLaren, Ferrari) had a bad day last season they would most likely finish a race in 5th and 6th. This season however it's looking likely that a bad day could drop them out of the points altogether and it's an opportunity for a smaller operation, like Sahara Force India, to shine. These are the opportunities that the Indian team need to take during the season to secure the target of 5th place in the constructors championship.

Deputy team principle, Robert Fernley, recently went on record to say that the owners need to make a decision on if they want Sahara Force India to be a race winning team or just an upper midfield team. Obviously being a race winning team will mean more investment - it could pay dividends but it could also be very risky as money doesn't always mean success (take the now defunct Toyota team for instance). There have been lots of stories in the media about Vijay Mallya pumping between $32M - $10M (depending on the source) into Sahara Force India from Kingfisher Airlines however the boss of both organisations posted this on his twitter account:

"Can't believe the malicious mischief going on by linking investments made in Force India F1 in the year 2010 to the current KFA situation".

... we think that's a pretty clear message but make of it what you will!

Anyhow back to racing and Mr.Mallya has stated:

"Our testing form has looked competitive, but it's only when we get to the first race that we really get a feel for the pecking order and how well everyone has done over the winter. From our side there is no doubt that Andrew Green and his technical team have done an outstanding job to deliver a well balanced car. I would even go as far as saying the VJM05 is the best engineered car we have produced and the detail of the design is beautiful. It's a car we believe can help us take another step forward. Driver-wise I'm extremely excited by our line-up this year; Nico and Paul are both young and hungry, and will ensure we squeeze every last thousandth from the car. There will be some healthy in house rivalry, too, which will be fascinating to watch, and I believe that we will get better results in the long run by having two drivers pushing each other on. As for Melbourne, it's a city I enjoy visiting immensely and the track has produced some good races over the years. It was in Melbourne that Force India made its debut back in 2008 and it's a good opportunity to reflect on how far we have come in the last five years. As for expectations, I remain cautious on making predictions, simply because there are so many unknowns. Our analysis suggests that we could see one of the closest grids in years, especially in the upper part of the midfield. Even so, our stated goal remains the same - to see Sahara Force India continue progressing and challenge the established teams that lie ahead of us".

For technical analysis on Sahara Force India's VJM05, please refer to this brilliant blog here.

Force India's drivers for the 2012 season are Paul Di Resta and Nico Hulkenberg. For those who are new to F1 here are the helmets of both drivers so you can distinguish between them when they're both on track.

(click to enlarge)

Paul's is on the left, Nico's is on the right!

So what are the drivers saying about the first race in Australia?

Paul Di Resta:

"The buildup to Melbourne has been a while coming, but at the same time it doesn't feel like there's been that much testing. In fact, compared to last year, there has been one less test, but it’s been a good winter for us in general. It's a great place to start the season and the fans always get behind the race, so it will be interesting to see how it feels second time around. After a good winter break I'm just looking forward to getting back to the racing. I enjoy the circuit. There's a good balance between high and low speed, plus it's a mixture between a street circuit and a permanent track, and that makes it quite unusual. I think the final sector stands out for me as the most interesting because it’s quite tricky and easy to get it wrong. We were strong on street circuits last year, especially Singapore, so hopefully that will continue. All the teams around us look strong and have been consistent in testing, so we just have to wait and see. Also, I think almost every team will have some new parts on their cars so it really is too early to make any judgements. To begin with our goal is simply to try and pick up points at every race".

To hear more from Paul take a look at a video interview he did with SkySportsF1 by clicking right here. He also did a fantastic feature for them at Silverstone, take a look below, you WILL want to watch this one for sure!


In addition, on that website you'll find a news story about Paul hiring somebody to help him with his season ahead, read that here.

Nico Hulkenberg:

"There's a lot of excitement - that’s the word I keep using to describe how I'm feeling. And I think it will continue until the Sunday morning in Melbourne when I wake up knowing I will be racing again in a few hours. That's when you feel the buzz and get the feeling of anticipation in your stomach. The testing has gone pretty well and it's been crucial for helping me get prepared. But I know testing is very different to racing because you don't have the same pressures of a race weekend. I think the true test will be qualifying when you have to deliver right away and you only get one chance. My first race in Australia in 2010 was cut short - only half a lap, but apart from that I have good memories from Melbourne and Australia in general. It's one of those venues with a special atmosphere and the whole city seems so relaxed and friendly. It's definitely up there with races like Monaco and Singapore in terms of the atmosphere. It's a race where we arrive very early to adapt to the time zone, so I will get a chance to look around the city, do some jogging, cycling and visit places like St.Kilda beach. If there's enough time I will try and explore the coast a bit".


At Nico said, he did visit St.Kilda beach, with Paul Di Resta, and they both look fresh and restored in their 2012 team kit.

(click to enlarge)

As things stand, the Australian GP could be brilliant for Sahara Force India, but it could also not go to plan - it's just impossible to tell. But with Vijay saying things like "the VJM05 is the best engineered car we have produced" - you can't help but feel positive!

For those who have not yet seen it, here is the VJM05:


(image from wtf1, click image to visit)

Okay, that image is a little edited! You got us!!

The team as a whole created a video preview for the upcoming GP, featuring Paul Di Resta. View that here:

(notice the cool graphics at the start with the Force India tune playing, looks awesome!)

The last thing we should mention, about Sahara Force India, is that our test driver, Jules Bianchi, is on World Series by Renault duty this weekend. As such McLaren reserve driver, Gary Paffett, has joined Sahara Force India as reserve for this race only.

That's all for Sahara Force India, but not for F1, let's not forget the "fastest Indian in the World", Narain Karthikeyan.

He is driving for HRT in 2012 and to be honest, things don't look overly promising. He's only completed 10 laps in the 2012 car, and that wasn't even on 2012 race tyres! Having said that, it's 10 more than teammate Pedro de la Rosa and 10 more than both Marussia drivers! Infact, Marussia will almost certainly be HRT's main competition during the season ahead.

On a personal level Narain needs to try and retain his drive for all twenty races and hopefully impress enough to receive some better offers for 2013.

About the Australian GP, he said:

"I'm feeling positive ahead of the Australian Grand Prix after having completed 10 laps with the new F112 last Monday. Of course this was only a first contact and we didn't push it to the limit but the important thing was to get the ball rolling. It's not ideal to miss testing but we must look forward now. The new management have done an incredible job putting everything together and we'll do the best we can to continue progressing. We're in the right direction. Last year we only managed to complete five laps in the third practice session and failed to qualify for the race, so I’m looking to etch out that memory".

That's all for now, you're fully upto date with Indian F1 involvement - it's time to let the excitement levels rise! Of course we'll be blogging about every F1 session, usually within ten minutes of the session ending so stay tuned for that!

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