Virtual Motorpix, along with other notable media and VIPs, were invited to a chilly Silverstone to witness the Force India launch of VJM10 by the team’s charismatic managing director Vijay Mallya. He was supported on the day by Otmar Szafnauer and Andrew Green, part of the team who developed this remarkable car for Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon for the challenge of the 2017 F1 season.
Launches can be hit and miss affairs, but this one in our opinion was just about perfect, hitting all the right spots and if the team can do this throughout the season, there is no reason why 2017 can’t be an improvement of 2016.
Mallya was very modest about the past performance of Force India promising to deliver long against short promises. In 2016, they finished fourth so this must mean that he is aiming for a top three finish in the 2017 Manufacturers’ championship. Whilst this is a very ambitious projection, there is no reason why in the hands of the experienced Perez and young and talented Ocon there shouldn’t be more podiums, champagne and trophies in the cabinet this year.
Of course, the VJM10 will be faster than the VJM09. The new regulations mean that’s a given, but will it be competitive? Will it fill the gap to the front runners, if the old order is maintained? The signs are that it will.
The VJM10 is ninety-five per cent a new car. Work stopped on the VJM09 in May 2016 so that resources could be diverted to the VJM10, and yet the VJM09 still finished fourth in the 2016 Manufacturers’ championship, so maybe a top three in 2017 is realistic.
What of the drivers? Fitness and driver preparation are not in doubt, with both Perez and Ocon looking fit, lean and eager, as they are putting in the hard hours in the gym. This is good news as the attention to detail with the VJM10 clearly extends beyond just the car, and covers the drivers as well.
The 2017 reserve and development driver, was revealed in the typical Force India understated way. It is the exciting and very capable Alfonso Celis Jr who will keep the regular drivers honest and on their toes, whilst feeding them with valuable data.
Andrew Green, Technical Director, was on hand to share his enthusiasm and desire to just get going and show just how good this car is going to be, it was interesting that at no stage did any of the team try to raise a ‘get out of jail free card’ like other teams pointing at tyres or powertrain suppliers.
Force India are clearly here to perform, no ifs no buts!
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Written by: John Mountney
Images by: Virtual Motorpix/John Mountney