New Force India debuts at start of Jerez test 01 Mar 2009
All eyes were on Force India on Sunday morning as they officially revealed their 2009 challenger, the VJM02, at Jerez in Spain, following a private shakedown for the Mercedes-powered machine at Silverstone earlier in the week.
In the hands of drivers Giancarlo Fisichella and Adrian Sutil, the new car is scheduled to spend four days running alongside rivals in the penultimate multi-team test before the season-opening Australian Grand Prix later this month.
Force India, formed following Vijay Mallyas takeover of Spyker in late 2007, failed to score last season despite Ferrari power. However, after a management shakeup and the signing of a new technical partnership with McLaren, the team are hoping for bigger things this year.
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, said Mallya. By using the same drivetrain as another team, Force India now has a high-level benchmark of its own performance. If performance relative to McLaren - the 2008 championship winning team - is low, there are only a reduced number of variables that need to be analysed and understood.
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.
The VJM02, which uses McLarens gearbox and KERS system, has been designed in-house at Force Indias UK facility by a tight-knit unit led by design director Mark Smith and technical director James Key, who have in turn been supported by a small team spear-headed by 2009 project leader Ian Hall.
In addition to the various challenges in interpreting a brand new set of technical regulations, the team has also condensed its development into just five months: the period between the McLaren deal being signed in November and the start of the season. It's been no mean feat to get everything ready, particularly with the team not turning a wheel between its last test in November and the debut of the new car - almost 100 days.
When we confirmed the partnership on 10 November 2008 we had to adapt our plans fairly significantly, said Smith. It's not just a case of getting the new parts and installing them; when we changed the gearbox, it had slightly different suspension mountings and when we changed the rear suspension there was a necessary change on the front.
Normally you would have started in August, so we have had to compress everything into five months. Everyone has really worked hard to make it work and we've got a potentially better package, so the change has been a positive rather than a negative.
Force Indias launch aside, it is set to be a busy week at Jerez, with eight teams due to run between now and Thursday. Speculation continues as to whether a late rescue for the former Honda team could yet see them make an appearance, while Toro Rosso are expected to test in private at Adria in Italy as they prepare their 2009 machine, the STR3.
Check back throughout the week for updates on the teams testing progress and the latest images. Note that all schedules are provisional and subject to change.