Technical Q&A - Force Indias Andrew Green on the VJM05 03 Feb 2012
They finished sixth in the 2011 standings and for 2012 Force Indias target is fifth. The car they are hoping will take them there is the new VJM05. Following its launch and track debut at Silverstone on Friday, the man who has led its design, technical director Andrew Green, discusses its development and its prospects for the coming season
Q: Last winter there was a major change of philosophy and it paid off with a stronger second half of the season. Whats has been the plan with the VJM05?
Andrew Green: The approach is to use that foundation and carry on building on it. We have a lot more confidence in the aerodynamics we put on the car now, compared to previous years. I think that showed from the time we changed the car in Barcelona and for the rest of the season. We were putting updates on at almost every race and the performance was improving. Were happy with the strategy weve got and were pushing the boundaries even further. So were going to use what we learned last year as the foundation. Theres been a bit of clawing back to do with the exhaust regulations and thats been the main focus of attention over the winter.
Q: How would you sum up the new car?
AG: I would say that the car looks a lot more refined than previous cars produced here. It does look a lot racier and a lot more purposeful. You can start to see the aerodynamic concepts coming through now. It looks quite a bit different to the previous years, which is good. And so far the performance in the tunnel has been extremely encouraging. Its just that unknown of where everyone else is - and we wont know that until Melbourne.
Q: What impact have rule changes had?
AG: The nose height regulation has led to the biggest visual change in the car, and then theres the exhaust regulation. The rest of it is very subtle.
Q: Some teams spent more time than others pursuing the blown diffuser route. Will that make it easier for you to take a step back from it?
AG: Our time was limited, as far as the blowing of the diffuser was concerned. We couldnt get it to work at the end of 2010 and thats when we had a big rethink last winter. So we only had a limited time to tune it and I know we never extracted the full potential. For the teams who were working on it a lot longer than us, it could be an even bigger hit.
Q: What can you tell us about the latest McLaren gearbox?
AG: Its smaller and lighter. Its a really neat and tidy package again, as we would expect from McLaren.
Q: The Mercedes KERS was new to the team last year. Are you happy with how it worked out?
AG: It was as close to a seamless integration as you could want. Its a fantastic system, and were very happy with it. There are little detail changes, but essentially its the same package.
Q: Last season the car was competitive on all types of circuits, whereas in the past Sahara Force India was usually stronger at the faster, low-drag venues. Will we see the same thing this year?
AG: That philosophy still holds true. I think maybe we swung a little bit too far in the other direction last year. Were aware that we werent that competitive at Monza, so well make sure well address that for 2012.
Q: Obviously last year the team had to learn a lot about the Pirelli tyres. Has that fed back into this car?
AG: We learned a huge amount about the tyres and everything weve learned has been incorporated into the design of the VJM05. Weve given ourselves some manoeuvrability on suspension design and characteristics which will help us at different tracks that demand different things from the tyres. So were looking to exploit that.
Q: In other words last year there were things that you wanted to adjust, but you were not able to?
AG: Exactly, we had designed ourselves into a corner in a few areas. We recognised early on that we wanted to manoeuvre out of them, but we couldnt! All those things were addressed with the 2012 car.
Q: This time last year there was a lot of talk about the DRS. Any changes for this year?
AG: There was a huge amount of rear wing development early in the season, although it tailed off towards the end. It shouldnt be the big focus that it was in 2011. Were carrying on the development from last year - its a reasonably competitive package. We will look to update it early on in the season, but to be honest it will only be marginal changes.
Q: In general terms with relatively stable rules is it getting harder and harder to find those little improvements?
AG: Yes, the gains that we find in the tunnel are getting smaller and smaller, and are getting harder and harder to find. And you have to think harder and harder to get those returns. We can see that in the tunnel - if you carry on the same route the gains get smaller, so you have to start thinking of other ways of generating the downforce. There are a couple of areas that we are exploring at the moment that look quite fruitful.
Q: Often when the rules are stable the field gets closer together. Is that an extra motivation for you and the team?
AG: Yes, it would obviously be good to be racing closer to the front. There was definitely a Premier League last year, and it will be good to be snapping at their heels! Thats certainly the plan.
Q: The schedule was different this year in that the car passed its crash tests in December. Has that freed you up to focus on development?
AG: As far as I am concerned, this car was designed more than two or three months ago, and what Im looking at now is all the development parts. Were scheduling all the new parts that are going to come in for the last test or the first race, so they are the ones on which we can focus. The net result is that we will be adding performance on the car come Melbourne because of the shape were in now. We will have that capacity in February to really push through updates in a much shorter period of time, because everything else will have been sorted. Thats really what were gearing ourselves up for - the first race - and it will be a little bit different from the car that we are going to run at the first test.
Q: Finally, how excited are you about the driver line-up?
AG: Im looking forward to seeing Nico (Hulkenberg) in the car and it will be Pauls (di Restas) second year, so I dont think we could ask for a stronger line-up. It gives us an extra edge - they will extract a higher percentage of the cars performance than other drivers, which is great for us. Im looking forward to the racing now!
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