Force India joined the piranha club in 2008 having bought out the Spyker team. The history of the squad goes as far back as 1991 when Eddie Jordan promoted his outfit to F1. However, in 2005 the Irishman sold his team to the Midland Group, who after one year of competition gave up and sold the squad on to Dutch car manufacturer Spyker.
In its most recent guise as Force India though, the team introduce Indian businessman Vijay Mallya to the sport and with his investment comes renewed optimism and much needed funds. The team have also managed to acquire the services of some key people as they launch a bid to improve the team and revert back to the days when Jordan was on the verge of winning with regularity.
2008: A New Beginning
With Giancarlo Fisichella partnering previous team driver Adrian Sutil, Force India looked to move themselves from the back row of the grid. The new car, named VJM-01 after the three founders, Vijay Mallya, Jan Mol and Michel Mol, was launched in India on February 7th 2008 and with a slew of new sponsors both drivers shared in the optimism that 2008 brought.
The season went less than well with both Fisichella and Sutil retiring frequently. Both drivers seemed to attract the unwanted attention of the Ferraris, with more than one incident both on the track and in the pitlane. The highest position either driver secured was tenth, the Italian pilot driving well at the Spanish Grand Prix. Only one glimmer of hope came from the season when in Monaco, Sutil was running superbly towards the end of the race and in a points-paying position. After a safety car restart though, Kimi Raikkonen plowed into the back of the Force India coming out of the tunnel and running down to the chicane.
No points were collected in Mallya’s first year as a team owner and the Indian entrepreneur set about making changes prior to the squad’s second attempt in 2009.
2009: Moving On Up
Vijay Mallya decided to take a more hands-on approach to 2009, placing himself on the pitwall and getting involved in decision closer to the racing. Initially, the team appeared to be doing little better than previously, with the highest finish in the first half of the season being ninth, Adrian Sutil driving well in Australia and Giancarlo Fisichella similarly in Monaco.
Prior to the Belgian Grand Prix, the team made some key updates to the VJM-02 and when the team turned up at Spa Francorchamps, everything seemed to be very much better. Giancarlo Fisichella took a fine pole position in Saturday’s qualifying and shocked those present in the pitlane and paddock. On race day, Fisichella drove well but couldn’t hold off the advances of Kimi Raikkonen’s Ferrari. The Italian driver eventually finished second, collecting Force India’s first points and podium.
Following the team’s triumphant Belgian Grand Prix, Giancarlo Fisichella left the squad to substitute the recovering Felipe Massa at Ferrari. The team promoted Vitantonio Liuzzi to the race seat, but the squad failed to mirror the success of Spa. Sutil came close, qualifying in second for the Italian Grand Prix, and finishing fourth was a welcome boost to the German’s confidence.
Liuzzi spent the remaining races of the year getting to know the VJM-02, and although the Italian driver failed to collect any points, drove reasonably well in a car he knew little about. During the Brazilian Grand Prix, Liuzzi had a sizable accident on the run down to the first corner,. thumping the barriers hard and scaring the members of the Brawn team who were positioned at the end of the pitlane. Liuzzi escaped unscathed from the incident.
2010: Continuing The Progress
The VJM-03 was launched to the world’s media in February and the squad decided to continue the driver pairing of Adrian Sutil and Vitantonio Liuzzi. It was announced that British driver Paul Di Resta would be the team’s test and reserve pilot for 2010.