Force India has long provided performance on a shoestring budget – but it was expected to struggle this season with F1’s technical regulation shake-up likely to favour its deep-pocketed rivals.
That didn’t stop the team from digging its heels in, though...
SOUNDBITE (English) VIJAY MALLYA,
TEAM PRINCIPAL, FORCE INDIA:
“I read an article this morning that Cyril Abiteboul of Renault said that poor teams such as Force India were going to suffer in this arms race; well good luck to him, he might have to eat his words, it's not the amount of arms you have it's the quality of your weaponry."
And so it proved - with the VJM10, the 10th car the team has fielded since its inaugural Mumbai launch in 2008 – a quality machine, filling the pocket between F1’s top teams and the midfield.
SOUNDBITE (English) SERGIO PÉREZ,
F1 DRIVER, FORCE INDIA:
“I’ve always said this team is ready to win a race, or to fight for big things. We just need a competitive car. But the level of engineering, the level of individuals that we have in this team is huge.”
Along with Sergio Pérez, who was in his fourth season with the team, was Mercedes young gun Esteban Ocon, the Frenchman competing in his first full campaign - after nine races with Manor in 2016.
The result: Force India’s best-ever season with 16 double points finishes from 20 races, only Monaco, Azerbaijan, Belgium and Brazil breaking the squad’s golden run – the majority collision related.
Two of those rounds highlighted a simmering intra-team rivalry, Pérez holding back Ocon from fighting Red Bull Racing’s Daniel Ricciardo for the podium in Canada. The frustration then bubbled over with - clashes in Azerbaijan, Hungary and Belgium where the pair twice made contact, Pérez famously squeezing Ocon against the wall on the run to Eau Rouge.
New rules of engagement from Italy onwards cooled the battle, but it’s no doubt set to re-ignite from Melbourne next year if the team again is locked in its own battle between the top teams and midfield.