Vijay Mallya Insists His Team Will Use The Force for Fifth
Such outlandish claims would have been considered unrealistic and crazy only a few months ago, yet Force India’s team boss Vijay Mallya has now set the target for his team to claim fifth place in the constructors title.
After two years at the foot of the field the goal seems quite an overstretch on first listen.
But does the team in any way shape or form have the power, committment and more importantly the ability to bring their goal into fruition?
It essentially will boil down to a few major factors. If Force India overcome these then they will stand in good stead to gain their desired outcome.
The Drivers In Unison
After taking over from Spyker in 2008, Force India held onto emerging talent Adrian Sutil. After the exit of Fisichella they accompanied the German Vitantonio Liuzzi this year.
Liuzzi is by no means a proven racer. As of yet he has given us two mediocre seasons with Toro Rosso, with an additional batch of races at Red Bull (2005) and last year with Force India. Accumatively he has scored just seven points from forty-five races.
It’s easy therefore to be harsh and negative about him. Alongside the likes of Sebastian Bourdais he was always going to go unnoticed when other youthful drivers such as Sebastien Vettel were creating miracles around them. Consequentially they were clearly and evidently regarded as the weakest link.
What Liuzzi portrayed in Bahrain though was a positive improvement of his previous form. It will hopefully be one that he can gradually enhance as the season progresses. If he can do this then he will undo much of the lack of credulation that he currently enlists to his name.
Adrian Sutil on the other hand has on various occasions caught the eye of spectators and critics. Statistically he has fared poorer than his new team mate. Six points from fifty-three Grand Prix does not sound a healthy amount.
We all remember however the fourth place Sutil should have claimed in the Monaco Grand Prix of 2008. On that day his achievement was scuppered by a wreckless Ferrari, when Kimi Raikkonen ran into the back of a helpless Sutil.
We also all felt the heartache when Sutil had to watch his seemingly slower team mate Fisichella claim Force India’s first podium finish in Belgium.
Adrian was definately more deserving of that accomplishment.
His response was a fourth place finish in the follow up Italian Grand Prix, though sadly it was always going to pale in comparison.
What you have in Sutil is a capable and quick driver. If anyone can elevate Force India to fifth it will be him.
Yet for all his good intentions and determined pace, what he can bring to the team can all so quickly be taken away just as readily.
Sutil is prone to making mistakes after all. It’s not just the odd occasional slip in performance; there have multiple occasions.
Already this season this has been highlighted with a first corner spin in Bahrain. This event cost him a probable points finish, for which his team were saved by Liuzzi getting into the top ten instead.
Adrian therefore holds a greater risk for the team in their challenge to be the best of the rest. If he cannot curtail his clumsy but costly errors then he may prove more of a detriment to the team than any abundance of average performance that Liuzzi may alternatively portray.
The Car & The Team
When Force India burst into life last year in Spa we were all in shock.
How could a team with a smaller budget, a smaller team, and a smaller reputation just catapult their season in such a short amount of time?
Fisichella and Sutil quickly gained points in consecutive Grand Prix. The team was feeling euphoria. They were never far off with regards to pace, but always made up the last two positions on the grid.
Fulfilling this rapid increase in pace however proved harder than they had hoped. The team although still massively improved could not display a continued consistency.
As a result they fell back into the midfield, adding nothing to their tally from Spa and Monza.
Whether this years Force India is more able to combat a lack of consistency remains to be seen. From pre-season information their chances look more prosperous. They look more adapt to the changing conditions that occur from one Grand Prix to another.
In the short term they head to Australia willing to build upon the ninth placed finish for Sutil last season.
Sutil has stated the obvious that even a similar result will afford them a precious points reward with the new points system in place.
If they can derive at least one top ten finish from the Grand Prix then their standards will immediately be higher than their efforts last year.
Such an achivement would keep the momentum going that they sadly lost after their earlier heroics.
It is a requirement of the team then to build and develop a car to the degree that their drivers will be allowed to attempt top ten finishes in every Grand Prix going.
Failure to do so could prove costly but epitmosing the capability would be a welcome asset.
Getting into a position of greater opportunity visibly looked like an easy obstacle that Force India overcame in the latter stages of 2009.
Staying there though will be vastly more difficult. Force India have many teams snapping at their heels, ready to attempt to reclaim a place ahead of them on the grid.
The field of twelve teams at the moment is cut into four.
At the front you have Mclaren, Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull. At the back you have the rookie teams in Hispania, Lotus and Virgin Racing.
Toro Rosso compose a group solely of their own, by providing not enough pace to challenge the midfeild, but more than enough to combat the attack from behind.
So that leaves four teams fighting for fifth place in the constructors fight.
Looking the least likely to challenge at this moment in time are the BMW Sauber team. With capable drivers De la Rosa and Kobayashi behind the wheel they struggled in Bahrain to fulfil their pre-season promise.
Then you have the Williams team who showed an average but solid display in Bahrain. Both teams though will look to edge closer to the front and to battle with the six teams ahead.
As it stands the most able competition to Force India comes in the form of Renault.
With well respected driver Robert Kubica and the instantly fast Russian rookie Petrov at the helm they look mighty.
You have to remember that this is a team steeped in glory, and still with the memory of constructors triumphs firmly in the back of their minds. They are a team who know how to improve. They are an outfit who have a driver line up better regarded by the fans.
Even if Petrov struggles at points with his unexperience, you know that Kubica will produce beauty behind the wheel. If he can work with his team to develop the sort of performance that Alonso enacted from the Renault team then Force India may face a losing tussle.
The Prospect At Large
If Vijay Mallya and his outfit have any chance of claiming fifth then they will need to deter all three teams, and especially Renault from their rear view mirrors.
For the time being they appear to portray the best of the rest. Their overall performance is optimistic, and their opening to the new season showed true potential.
Mallya’s claim of ownership to fifth is therefore not unfounded.
As a package they will now need to elevate their chances, by continuously producing a car that the two drivers can yield superb results from.
An early achievement of points could allow them ample opportunity to defend their position if they fall behind one of their competitors in mid season.
What I feel would be there major downfall though, is not in the ability of the team. They have proven themselves worthy.
Instead the risk of falling backwards is more at threat with the drivers. Neither driver is lacklustre or for want of a better word – awful.
But then again neither is a proven special talent. So this year, if everything goes well, they well and truly could be.
Sutil has his opportunity to shine in a car that compliments his raw speed. He just needs to eliminate the foolish mistakes that have hindered his career up until now.
Liuzzi also has the chance to force upon us a reputation of a driver who is able to compete at the highest level in the motorsporting world. He can allow us to regard him as worthy of his place on the field if he can portray a season of absolute confidence and credible results. He can encompass a name that provides more admiration that it currently does.
Both drivers are unlikely to etch their names into the history books as potential champions, but their best efforts will afford them a further run in the sport. They are in a position of power. They have the ability to excel.
Let’s just hope they can show it and save Vijay Mallya from regretting his staunch opinion that his team are as worthy as he says they are.