Sahara Force India: 2017 Preview
Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon unveil the VJM10. (Image Credit: Sutton Images)

Sahara Force India: 2017 Preview

After their best ever season in 2016, Vavel looks at how Sahara Force India will cope with the new generation of car.

Jake Nichol

Everyone in Formula 1 knows it. That Sahara Force India, are without doubt, the best team in the sport when it comes to performance against their budget. 

In 2016, the team finished fourth in the constuctors' - a long time ambition of owner Vijay Mallaya, and ahead of big boys McLaren and Renault. 

For a smaller, independent team to finish ony behind the richest three teams in the table show just how effective the team are when it comes to deploying their resources. 

Despite the brilliant 2016 with the VJM09, Nico Hulkenberg decided to jump ship for Renault, with young Frenchman Esteban Ocon being selected as Sergio Perez's team-mate. 

With a brainy technical department, two drivers eager to establish themselves as the 'number 1', and the possibility that they could've nailed the new technical regulations to a T, Force India can be hopeful that more prizes lay around the final corner.

The Car

Well. From the cockpit forward, it looks as if the team have gone a greatest hits collection on what makes an F1 car look ugly. 

Attention is first drawn to the massive bulge, where the connection between the monocoque, built in-house for the first time for the VJM10, and front-wing begin. 

This is basically a step-nose design that made the 2012-13 cars so undesirable to look at. 

Moving further forward, on first impressions, the team have opted for a 2014-esque design from the nose to the front-wing. However, on closer inspection, what Technical Director Andrew Green and his team have done is quite clever.

The VJM08B and VJM09 both sported nostrils on the nose. This, akin to an S-Duct, channeled air through the underside of the car, around the sidepods to the diffuser. 

Force India's VJM10 for the 2017 season. (Image Credit: Sutton Images)
Force India's VJM10 for the 2017 season. (Image Credit: Sutton Images)

Look carefully at the VJM10's nose, and you will see that either side of the slots are connected to the middle. In effect, the team have retained the nostril design, but also opted for stubbed nose that Williams, Sauber and Renault have all opted for so far, just to a greater extent. 

Near the middle of the car, the barge-baords looks as though they will be continuned to be developed, but toward the rear of the car, attention is drawn to the massive shark-fin. 

For some reason, none of the teams so far, want to paint their shark-fins, which make them stand out. 

The one on the VJM10 looks like the side of a barn, yet a bigger fin could be more effective in channeling air, more quickly to the diffuser, which would create more downforce, and a faster car. 

Also, the new paint-job suggests that new sponsor Johnnie Walker are paying a rather handsome sum for prime exposure. Either that or McLaren have nicked all the Orange paint. 

The Drivers

Much has been written about Sergio Perez's rebuilt reputation at Force India, with him being on the cusp of a works Ferrari drive at one point last season, before they opted to keep Kimi Raikkonen. 

During his three year stay so far, Pere has scored a podium in every year, two in 2016, at Monaco and Azerbaijan, two completely different tracks .

His ability to make the sensitive Pirelli's last due to his careful throttle application means that the team could put him on mulitiple strategies if need be. 

Seeing off Hulkenberg, still highly rated, by 31 points in '16 was a stellar job. Now as Team Leader for the first time in his career, the pressure is on. Will he rise to the occassion, or will new team-mate Esteban Ocon steal his Mexican thunder?

Perez and Ocon will be looking to push each and establish themselves as the 'Number 1' (Image Credit: Sutton Images)
Perez and Ocon will be looking to push each and establish themselves as the 'Number 1' (Image Credit: Sutton Images)

Esteban Ocon, after just nine F1 races has best placed at the fourth best team. Not because he has the money, but because he is a very quick racing driver. 

Toto Wolff, praised the decison to take Ocon, saying "talent will always rise to the top." He is right.

Ocon was more than a match for Pascal Wehrlein during their short time together at Manor, and the Frenchman is a ideal team player.

Eager to learn and develop, Ocon was given the drive over Wehrlein as the team believe he is the better of the two, and easier to work with. 

It doesn't happen often that a effective rookie is placed at a team knocking on the door of the big-boys, but clearly there is something about Ocon. 

He will need to quickly stamp his mark on the team, as so Perez doesn't make him the 'number 2'. The fight between Perez and Ocon could be one of the most intriguing throughout the season.

What can they achieve with the VJM10?

A lot, according to Mallaya, Green and COO Otmar Szafnauer. 

Work began on the VJM10 in May last year and the team are confident that they have a good car, as Mallaya confidently stated during the launch "all the datat shows this is a cracker of a car, and that we are dreaming big but going to give it all we got."

Mallaya is always quite understated when making predictions, and depsite Perez saying he "expects a very big year", the boss was slightly more cautious, sticking to his usual mantra of 'low expectations, over achieve' as opposed to 'high-expectations, under achieve'.

Nevertheless, the car is an interesting take on the new rules. 

One big team will likely fluff the new rules, and one smaller team will find that magic bullet which will catapault them up the order. With the nose design on the VJM10, that bullet may've just been found. 

Did You Know?

Seventh has been Force India's most common classified finishing position in F1, having done so on 32 occassions. Eighth and ninth are next most popular on 27 times, whilst the team's five podiums come in the form of one second place, Giancarlo Fisicella, 2009 Belgian Grand Prix and Perez's clutch of third place finishes in Bahrain (2014), Russia (2015) and Monaco and Azerbaijan (2016).