2007 Team Review - Spyker 06 Nov 2007
Starting another season with new owners, Spyker faced an uphill struggle in 2007. But with team principal Colin Kolles and driver Christijan Albers staying on - and German F3 sensation Adrian Sutil and ex-Toyota technical chief Mike Gascoyne joining the fray - the Dutch squad believed they were well-placed to make some inroads into the mid-field.
A new deal with Ferrari for the supply of engines also augured well, even if budget constraints limited pre-season testing to just 11 days. In Australia, however, the underprepared outfit found themselves right at the bottom of the pack, with Sutil and Albers qualifying in 21st and 22nd, three seconds adrift of the frontrunners.
The teams qualifying pace would not really improve all season and the squad never once made it beyond Q1. In spite of this distinct lack of speed, there were some reasons to smile, such as Sutils practice showing in Monaco which saw him topping the timesheets during a wet Saturday session.
The young Germans success in Monte Carlo compounded the growing view that the rookie was the teams strongest driver - and a Formula One star of the future - having already put more-experienced team mate Albers firmly in the shade. Out-qualified on Saturday and out-paced on Sunday, Albers position in the team was looking increasingly untenable.
At the French Grand Prix, matters worsened for Albers when he left the pits too early, driving out with his fuel hose still attached, prompting his instant retirement from the race. It would prove the last straw for Spyker and the Dutchman was replaced one round later because of contractual issues.
His temporary stand-in for the European Grand Prix was reserve driver Markus Winkelhock, who made a real splash on his Formula One debut by leading the race - a first for Spyker - early on after the prescient Gascoyne put him out on wet tyres ahead of the rest of the field. It wasnt enough, however, to score the German a permanent seat, which went to Japanese GP2 star Sakon Yamamoto for the remainder of the season.
But it would take more than Yamamoto to improve Spykers fortunes. The real step up for the team came with a revised B-Spec car. Due to appear at Augusts Turkish Grand Prix, its arrival was significantly delayed after it failed an FIA rear-impact test. But it was eventually worth the wait - after a lacklustre maiden outing in Monza, in Belgium the updated F8-VII showed much more muscle.
Sutil beat not only Hondas Jenson Button at Spa, but also Red Bulls David Coulthard and Williams driver Alex Wurz in the fastest lap stakes. The cars enhanced race pace and improved reliability then allowed Sutil to score his and the teams maiden point in Japan. By now, however, Spyker had other headaches and rumours abounded that the Dutch car manufacturer might have to sell the team.
Toyota sponsor Vijay Mallya stepped in and his consortium - which included Dutch entrepreneur and Spyker F1 Director, Michiel Mol - completed a successful buyout in early October. With its future now secure, the team are hopeful they can make more of an impact in 2008. With new name Force India, a potentially bigger budget and Gascoyne and Sutil set to stay on, the future for the team definitely looks brighter - if a little less orange - for next season.