Although pictures of the car managed to find their way on to the Internet yesterday, today was the first time we could see the new VJM02 on track and compare the lap times set by the car to others who were also taking part in the group test at Jerez. With Sunday being the official launch day of the car, the team were speaking to the media about their expectations for 2009, and also 2010 as they get used to their collaboration with Mercedes-Benz and McLaren.
Team owner Vijay Mallya believes the squad have no excuses not to score points in 2009, pointing out that the squad are much stronger now they have a technical affiliation with the world championship winning McLaren team. Along with support, Force India also have Mercedes engines as well as gear boxes and KERS, which will give them a definite boost. Although, for 2008 the team were using the mighty Ferrari power unit and still failed to score any points. With a more complete package though, Force India may be able to haul themselves forward.
To be brutally honest, I would not be happy if we didn’t show some much improved, and much needed, performance.
What we really set out to do over the winter was to put in place structures, procedures and partnerships that would give improvement, but crucially, no excuses.
I would like to see a strong start, rising to points mid-season and a definite improvement in qualifying. Regular points finishes should be the aim.
This is the year we have to deliver. We are not here to make up the numbers, I want to be pushing all the way Vijay Mallya.
However, looking at some testing times, with a handful of salt it must be said, the lap times look fairly close, implying that 2009 could be another closely fought and tightly packed grid. With cars running only a few tenths apart, more emphasis is placed on reliability, strategies and drivers. Losing a tenth or two in qualifying could mean, as it did more than once last year, a difference of up to six places on the grid. Those positions can make the difference between getting into the following phases of qualifying.
If the team does manage to improve during 2009, the drivers will no doubt be analysed more closely by the team and pundits alike. Adrian Sutil is at the beginning of his career and got his drive partly because of a good relationship with then Spyker boss Colin Kolles. Since then though, Kolles has left the Force India team as part of Mallya’s management restructure, and although Sutil is said to have a long term contract with the squad, nobody is entirely safe in their jobs in Formula One.
Giancarlo Fisichella is perhaps the driver with most question marks over, having been soundly beaten by Fernando Alonso at Renault, and then having a less-than-great year with Force India in 2008. Previously, Fisichella had been hailed as a great racer who nearly always demoralised his team mates. Jenson Button, Jarno Trulli and Alex Wurz have all felt the Italian’s wrath back in the Benetton days, but more recently, Giancarlo appears to have struggled.
Last year was difficult, but this year is much more encouraging. If I have a good season and I have the chance, I will stay in F1 for more. Giancarlo Fisichella.
Fisichella believes the VJM02 will become a regular points scorer in 2009 and expects the squad to introduce the KERS device when the circus heads for Europe and the Spanish Grand Prix. Although it should be noted that Fisichella is very much against the idea, having said that KERS is a waste of money and time and still not entirely safe. In an interview at Jerez, Giancarlo had the following to say…
We’re not going to use the KERS until Barcelona so I just need to concentrate on driving the car as quick as possible. Most of the teams I think are going to run with it from the European races, so not for three or four races.
I never drove with it, and I am against it because the teams are spending a lot of time and especially money to develop it. It’s still not safe. Giancarlo Fisichella.
Fisichella completed 31 laps today at Jerez as he put the VJM02 through its paces. At the end of the afternoon the Italian was pleased with the car and his initial impressions were good. There were a few gremlins that needed ironing out, but all in all the car appears to have enjoyed a good debut.
It is a bit frustrating as we could only do 31 laps today, especially as it is very important to try and get as many as possible as we are already late compared to the other teams. I am however quite surprised and happy about what I felt with the behaviour of the car today. It’s very promising and I felt much more consistency, even under braking, and more stability in the high speed corners.
We need to improve the traction a bit and also the oversteering after a few laps, but this is a problem others have had as well. The lap time is good and I am quite pleased as we did it with one set of new tyres and I know I can do much better than this. Giancarlo Fisichella.
Fisichella will continue testing tomorrow before handing the car over to team mate Adrian Sutil on Tuesday.