Best Result in Constructor’s World Championship: 3rd (1999)
Worst Result in Constructor’s World Championship: 10th (2006-2009)*
Title: The Foster Child
Force India. Spyker. Midland (MF1). Jordan. No other currently competing team on the F1 grid has had more ‘parents’ than the Silverstone-based squad with Irish origins. In fact it could be said that this team is the foster child of the grid.
Despite being loved by the founding father (Eddie Jordan), money pressures saw this team change hands from owner to owner, until it found its new home in Vijjay Mallaya’s very capable hands.
But, like a child who has experienced to much change in so short a team, there have been some learning difficulties in recent times.
Still, the very fact that the team is even here today is a testament to the undying spirit of those who are part of it.
The 1999 season was one where the Jordan team was at the height of its powers. Coming off the back of its first win in 1998, the skilled former world champion Damon Hill and the German Ace Heinz-Harald Frentzen continued the strong run of the iconic yellow cars.
Between them they took a number of podiums, with Frentzen taking two wins and coming home a remarkable third in the driver’s championship with the team taking third in the constructor’s.
The stage was thus set for a shake at the world championship in 2000 with Fretzen and Jarno Trulli. The year was an incredible disappointment however, with the Mugen Honda engines were to prove unreliable and the team dropped to sixth in the standings behind BAR.
There is usually silver lining with every cloud though and Honda decided to give the struggling team works engines.
Despite this small victory, the team began 2001 with a large number of their prized technical team, including Mike Gascoygne, jumping ship.
To compound this issue, Jordan’s money troubles surfaced for the first time. Despite this Jordan managed to finish a respectable fifth thanks to both Trulli and Frentzen putting in some respectable performances.
2002 was again to turn into another relatively uncompetitive year as the affect of the big manufacturers began to squeeze the smaller privateers out of the sport.
With sponsorship hard to come by and the budget required to win spiralling out of reach, Jordan had to be content with taking a fighting sixth.
2003 was to see the team’s fortunes plummet dramatically. The team’s association with Honda came to an abrupt end with Ford-badged Cosworth engines making an appearance in the back of the yellow cars.
These engines were essentially slower versions of those used by Jaguar and were far from competitive or reliable. Coupled with a chassis that was designed on a meagre budget, the Jordan team would crash to ninth by years end.
The only highlight was Giancarlo Fisichella’s remarkable win in Brazil under red flag conditions.
With the money problem worsening, Jordan’s 2004 competitor driven by the underrated, yet quick Nick Heidfeld and F3000 graduate Giorgio Pantano (with a points paying cameo mid-year by Timo Glock) was even slower than the previous car relative to the competition.
Even the Minardis were finishing ahead at some events and not even Heidfeld’s excellent and dogged performances could push the team into the points often enough to escape ninth place.
Sadly this was to prove the final straw for the beleaguered Eddie Jordan, who sold his team to Midland in 2005 who would retain the Jordan name for one more season.
This would prove to be the first of many masters for this team of battlers and this change wasn’t the only one for the new season. Toyota replaced Ford as engine supplier and Formula One saw its first Indian and Portuguese drivers with Narain Kartihikeyan and Tiago Monteiro joining the fray. Although the Toyota engine was an improvement, a paltry points haul was to ensue.
Only Monteiro’s podium at Indianapolis was worth talking about, however the only reason it occurred was due to the six Bridgstone shod cars being the only ones taking part.
Yet again, ninth did not seem like a just reward for a team that tried so hard.
And so Jordan bade goodbye to F1 and the iconic yellow gave way to a corporate grey/orange mix. The Midland owners renamed the team MF1 and much was hoped for. With a bigger budget (not by much) the team was touted as making a comeback of sorts in 2006.
However it was apparent after the first third of the season that Midland clearly didn’t understand the demands of F1 and soon the whole deal went pear-shaped. Poor result after poor result saw the team sell to Dutch car maker Spyker before the season had even ended. Monteiro and Dutchman Christjian Albers failed to score a point all year long, only just beating the all new and rapidly improving Super Aguri to tenth place.
Unfortunately for Spyker, 2007 was more of the same again. The Orange cars were unimpressive all year long, again scoring no points and only avoiding the disgrace of last place thanks to McLaren’s disqualification. All of this saw Spyker bail out at year’s end.
With their future in doubt and the cost of competing becoming nightmarish it took Indian billionaire Vijay Mallaya’s intervention to save the team. His purchase involved the team being renamed Force India.
It was immediately apparent that Mallaya meant business and his cars, although struggling for most of the year, did perform well on occasion, with Adrian Sutil’s Monaco performance being the standout (it did end in tears though: DNF).
Still, no points at years end were little consolation, and the team finished tenth.
In 2009 Force India is really starting to look like a professional racing outfit. The car is fighting in the midfield regularly and it appears only a matter of time before they finish in the points.
Although it is too little too late to be a serious contender this year, one can’t help but sensing the team is doing well given the scars of its turbulent history. Being passed from owner to owner couldn’t have been a healthy thing and this year’s zero points and current tenth place show this.
Still, with some consistency in management, a steady cash flow and a little luck, the team that carries the hope of India can only improve.
* NOTE: Result has been obtained during the season currently in progress.