Formula 1: The Surprise Force of Force India


Perez on the podium is just part of Force India’s amazing start to 2014. Mandatory Photo Credit: Associated Press

While we may be used to the Silver Arrows of Mercedes racing at the top in 2014, the usual challengers of Ferrari and Red Bull have a new rival.

Quietly, sitting in third, is the Force India team only three points behind the recently dominant team of Red Bull.

The new rule changes created havoc for teams, who had to get used to new engines, aerodynamics, and other facets of the car. This move has been viewed almost entirely in a negative light by fans and Formula One supremos such as Bernie Ecclestone.

However, what it also did, was create a complete reset. Something that driver Nico Hulkenberg agrees with: “I think new regulations create a reset for all teams,” Hulkenberg told the Times of India. “It changes the established order a bit and that is what we’ve seen this year. I think it has given us a chance to be more competitive than in previous seasons. The team sacrificed a lot last year to concentrate on 2014 and I think it has proved to be a sensible decision.”

It was a worthwhile sacrifice. Drivers were also sacrificed as under-performing Paul Di Resta and Adrian Sutil were discarded.

It was key that two good replacements were brought in seeing as so much of 2013 was sacrificed for 2014. Bearing in mind teams such as Force India possess a budget that is truly minuscule in comparison to the likes of Ferrari, the recruitment of Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez were extremely good pickups for their budget.

Hulkenberg is an often forgotten name, but the likes of Mark Webber have endorsed him, suggesting he is worthy of bigger things.

His teammate, Sergio Perez, got his chance at bigger things, but did lost it. In 2013, he was given the chance to race at McLaren. He certainly was not a poor driver, but his recklessness and driver’s arrogance caused friction at the team.

What these pickups gave Force India however were two talented drivers with it all to prove. Combine that with a car given plenty of planning and work, and Force India’s high flying start to the season seems more reasonable.

Things got off to a good start in Australia, as Hulkenberg finished sixth and Perez tenth. It was a sign of things to come in 2014. As plenty of teams struggled to even finish the race and others struggled to adapt, Hulkenberg drove comfortably as Perez impressively drove from 16th into the points. The car showed good pace, and crucially in this season of Formula One: reliability.

However, that reliability took a blow in the next race in Malaysia. Sergio Perez was the unfortunate victim of car failure, which left Hulkenberg the sole driver. The solo driver finished the car in fifth. The finest moment was an  excellent and brave take on Fernando Alonso in the opening stages of the race. He also was able to look back on a huge gap over his nearest competitor.

Thankfully, Perez was not to be too downhearted. He bounced back in excellent style at Bahrain, qualifying fourth which is his best qualifying performance to date. This was a great chance for Force India to finish on the podium, and really announce themselves as a challenger in Formula One. It was Hulkenberg’s turn to take the backseat though as he started in 11th. It certainly did not hold him back though, as an opportunistic safety car came from a clash between Pastor Maldonado and Esteban Gutierrez eradicated the gaps between cars. Hulkenberg pounced and moved to fourth, but tyre wear saw him fall back to a final finish of fifth. It was a late blow, but his work in defending the position saw Perez claim a podium finish.

Most recently, the team went to the Chinese GP. Unable to finish as highly, the two took sixth and ninth, with Hulkenberg topping Perez.

It’s safe to say that Force India have endured a dream start to their 2014 Formula One season, and with the European leg of the season looming, all eyes will be on whether the Force India can continue to stay with the top boys. The long gap between the European leg means all the teams will be looking for an advantage.

With such preparation and forward thinking allowing the team to sacrifice 2013 for 2014, the car should remain competitive in the hands of two strong drivers.

Just how far David can go against Goliath in the title challenge dominated by big budgets, remains to be seen.