Force India started their 3rd season under its current guise in 2010. Despite the investment from Vijay Mallya, the team has never had the budget of the bigger teams. This means that the team has had to operate with less resources and lower manpower and still try and move up the grid.
Driver pairing remained the same in 2010; Adrian Sutil partnered Vitantonio Liuzzi, who returned to the cockpit towards the end of the 2009 season. Sutil had the upper hand all through the season, finishing in the points 9 times to Liuzzi’s 5. Two 5th place finishes for Sutil, in Malaysia and Belgium, were the best results the team achieved in 2010.
Finishing 7th and coming a single point behind Williams showed significant improvement compared to the 2009 season. In the second year of their tie-up with the McLaren team, they ran the Mercedes engine with McLaren gearbox, giving them a strong base for the packaging of the rear of the car.
Force India, along with the Renault team, were one of the first to run their ‘f’-duct into the main plane of the rear wing, but the team would always be playing catch up to the big teams with big developments such as the ‘f’-duct and the Exhaust Blown Diffuser. In a team with such limited resources, it is no doubt difficult to make big strides to get further up the grid.
2011 sees Adrian Sutil remain with the team to be partnered by Paul di Resta. The Scot impressed with his Friday practice outings and was regularly on pace with race drivers. The team need to have some strong performances and try and maximise the development with the resources they have in the hope of catching the likes of Williams or Renault and continue their rate of improvement.
The German had some good drives for the team in the past and continued that in 2010 with solid points finishes and two 5th places. Sutil is still prone to the odd mistake, but showing he has improved and picking up a good haul of points in 2010 will have no doubt been a big confidence boost.
Rumours surfaced in the middle of the year of Sutil wanting to leave Force India to join a team which would give him more of a chance of fighting further up the grid, reported to be Mercedes if Michael Schumacher decided to end his comeback early. Sutil could not get the move he wanted, so remains at Force India in 2011.
If Sutil was serious in his desire to leave, there could be a lasting effect in his relationship within the team this year, but they all know they will have to keep working hard to continue their rate of improvement and to make sure they continue to keep ahead of the likes of Sauber and Toro Rosso and to try and catch Williams and Renault.
Paul di Resta
The 24 year old Scot makes his Formula 1 race debut in 2011 with Force India, having previously driven in a number of practice sessions during 2010. Comparable times to the race drivers in these sessions have impressed through the year and he deservedly gets his chance this season.
Winning the 2010 DTM series with 3 wins along the way, he has shown he can race in a competitive class. His testing experience means he will be familiar with the circuits and the team so will not be starting on the back foot compared to other rookies.
A good season for di Resta would be to get on par with Adrian Sutil as quickly as possible. If he can match the pace of his German team mate and score some points along the way, this will stand him in good stead to progress into 2012.
With Nico Hülkenberg taking di Resta’s role as third driver, and proving himself as more than capable to be quick in a Formula 1 car, the pressure is on for both drivers to perform this season or risk finding themselves being replaced by Hülkenberg.