Having kept a low profile all winter, Force India finally showed their hand on Monday morning as Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon pulled the covers off their vivid 2018 challenger, the VJM11, in the Barcelona pit lane.
Force India take the wraps off new F1 car in Barcelona
The Silverstone-based team, who have a proud reputation for punching above their weight, have finished fourth in the constructors’ standings in each of the last two seasons.
However, repeating the trick – or going better – in 2018 will be no easy feat, with the likes of Renault, Williams and a revived McLaren all vying for position in what promises to be an extremely competitive field.
“I see no reason why we cannot consolidate our position and improve," said Team Principal, Vijay Mallya. "Yes, Formula One is a very tough and competitive environment, but we are an established team with continuity in all areas of the company. We don’t take anything for granted, but we will be disappointed if we are not fighting for points at every race this year.”
The same DNA
An evolution of its predecessor, the Mercedes-powered VJM11 features tighter sidepods and an updated pink livery for 2018. As part of the launch, the lack of Force India branding on the team kit was notable as the team weighs up a potential name change.
“The DNA of the car is still very much that of last year’s car,” explained Technical Director Andrew Green.
“We took the decision, quite a while ago, that the launch specification of the 2018 car would be based around our understanding of the 2017 car, but with all new structures required by the regulations in place.
“It is a starting point, a good reference from which to introduce changes quite quickly; it gives our aerodynamics department more time to develop a car for the first race in Australia, rather than having to release parts early for testing.”
Perez and Ocon were extremely closely-matched during 2017, leading to a number of incidents during the season, but Chief Operating Officer Otmar Szafnauer expects a more productive partnership between the team mates this year.
“We will, of course, remind them [of their responsibilities], but not really sit down and talk to them,” Szafnauer said. “You’ll remember after we clinched fourth place, we allowed them to race again with the same rules that we had before we said no more racing and they performed admirably.
“So I think just a reminder and I think they’ve come into their own maturity - Checo as a father and Esteban having more than doubled his experience in Formula 1 - they understand, and they will act accordingly for the good of the team, which is ultimately for the good of themselves too.
“I’m quite confident that they will race respectfully, competitively, but for the good of the team.”
And Szafnauer is also confident Force India are set to see Perez close to reaching his peak in the coming season, with Ocon only entering his second full year of racing in F1.
“Checo is a great racer on Sunday. I think that won’t change. I think he’ll work hard to make sure that he qualifies well. Checo’s probably at the peak of his career, he’s done loads of races and is coming up to his late-twenties now.
“There are some good guys out there racing until their mid-thirties, so I think Checo can maintain this level if not get marginally better for a few years. As you know, Esteban is really young and is still learning, so it’s a good combination.”