|Stepped nose just like the new Ferrari and Caterham|
Sahara Force India unveiled its 2012 challenger today as Paul Di Resta and Nico Hulkenberg pulled the covers off the VJM05 at Silverstone. They were joined by reserve driver, Jules Bianchi, as the team’s new car was presented for the first time.
The Mercedes-engined car features a nose design similar to that of the 2012 Caterham, and heavily revised sidepods in line with the new exhaust rules. Force India has also dropped its 'blade' style roll hoop design.
Paul di Resta has billed his new Force India VJM05 as a "fine piece of art" despite unveiling a rather unattractive boxer-nosed machine...
Opting to launch their new car at the Silverstone circuit near the team's headquarters, Force India duo di Resta and Nico Hulkenberg were on hand to take the covers off their 2012 challenger.
The car features a lowered nose and high front suspension similar to that of the new Ferrari F2012 and the Caterham.
But while the car may not be pretty by most people's standards, di Resta is hoping it is at least quick.
"That's the big aim this year, to come fifth as a constructor," the Scot told Sky Sports News.
"But to achieve that you're going to be overtaking a car manufacturer, which is a big thing in Formula One and a World Championship (winning) team at that.
|Drivers Hulkenberg and di Resta|
"We need to make that next step and the dedication of everyone around here - the buzz is still around - and I'm sure we're ready to make that step should our machine give us the competitiveness we need."
Asked for his thoughts on his 2012 car, he added: "I think every individual in this team has put a lot of effort into this car.
"The momentum we had at the end of last year, hopefully we've managed to carry that over.
"It's a fine piece of art and hopefully when it gets to the track it'll show what it's capable of."
The VJM05 is the second car to be created under the watch of Technical Director, Andrew Green, as the team seeks to build on its on its sixth place finish in the constructors’ championship and take the fight to the teams that lie ahead.
“We have set our sights on challenging for fifth place,” explained Team Principal and Managing Director, Dr. Vijay Mallya. “To do so we will need to begin the new campaign by delivering the kind of form we showed in the second half of 2011. I believe this is a realistic goal and that we have the talent and determination to realize these ambitions.”
Chief Operating Officer, Otmar Szafnauer, echoed those sentiments as he praised the team’s efforts to develop the VJM05: “The new car has come together nicely over the winter. We don’t know what our competitors have done, but we’ve made some gains over the winter and believe we’re in reasonable shape. It’s going to be difficult in the midfield, but our focus is on starting strongly and improving our position from last season.”
Summing up the approach to 2012, Andrew Green added: “The car looks more refined; 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, and so far the performance in the tunnel has been encouraging.”
The drivers were delighted to get their first glimpse of the new car and set out their hopes for the season ahead:
Paul Di Resta: “Seeing the new car built and complete for the first time is always an exciting moment. It’s when you realize that all the waiting is finally over and the season is beginning for real. I’ve had a good winter and I’ve recharged my batteries, but now I’m fully focused on 2012 and looking forward to the start of testing. There’s a really positive feeling in the team, good stability and hopefully we can pick up where we left off at the end of last year.”
Nico Hulkenberg: “I saw the new car in the wind tunnel a few times and followed its progress during the winter. It looks aggressive and fast, but we won’t know where we stand until we get out there and compete against the others. Preparations for the new season have been full-on with simulator sessions and lots of fitness training. I feel ready to get back to racing and I’m excited to find out what the new car feels like next week.”
Once again the Sahara Force India cars will be powered by the Mercedes engines with gearbox supplied by McLaren Applied Technologies. This will be the second season with the Mercedes KERS.
After excelling in the Williams in 2010, Nico Hulkenberg spent last year sitting on the bench as Force India’s third driver. Now promoted to a 2012 race seat, Hulkenberg is impatient to restart his competitive Formula One career and get his first taste of the newly-launched VJM05…
Q: Did you have a chance to relax this winter and how have you been preparing for this season?
Nico Hulkenberg: After Brazil I took some time out and just chilled a little bit and did some training. I went on a little holiday to New York after Christmas and since the beginning of January I’ve been pretty much flat out. It’s not like I’ve been sitting at home, there’s been plenty to do and think about!
Q: What are your initial thoughts on the VJM05?
NH: I think the car doesn’t look too different to last year, expect maybe at the front of the nose, where there is a bit of a change. Apart from that, there isn’t much obvious, although the exhaust position is different. Aero-wise, it’s in the details again. I saw the car in the wind tunnel and it looked good, but you never know where you are until you are out there and you compete against the others, so let’s wait and see.
Q: All the teams have lost downforce with the exhaust rules. Are you confident that the team has been able to claw enough back?
NH: Everyone is positive. Losing the blown floor was a setback, but at the same time the aero guys and engineers are moving on and trying to develop other areas to try and gain what you lose. Nowadays you need a strong aero package, a good aerodynamic car, but also mechanically you cannot afford to have poor suspension. It all goes together as a package and you have to have harmony in the car.
Q: How would you describe the team’s philosophy with the new car?
NH: I think very clearly the philosophy is to build a competitive and very quick car! With 20 races this year you need a car which is very good on every circuit, not just high-speed tracks like Monza, or tight street circuits like Monaco. I think if you want to compete against the others, and it’s pretty tough in the midfield, you need to be competitive everywhere. We’re just trying to develop and make the car stronger in every aspect.
Q: How hungry are you to get started after not racing last year?
NH: Very! Preparations have been full-on with simulator sessions, the seat fitting, and my training regime has gone up a little bit in volume and intensity. So I’m getting myself back into shape again. It’s exciting times and I’m looking forward to it.
Q: Will it take you a couple of weekends to get back into the rhythm of qualifying and racing?
NH: It’s difficult to know. Obviously I went through that process in 2010, and I still have memories of it. However, it’s not a situation like the beginning of 2010 when I was a complete rookie and completely new to everything. I’ve gone through it before and I know what to expect and what is coming up. It’s not a bad situation, but not having been on the grid for a year means it might take some time and some adjustments before I’m fully up there and back in my race rhythm.
Q: You learned about the Pirellis in your Friday testing last year, but you don’t know about how they develop over the weekend into qualifying and the race. Is that the major thing you have to learn?
NH: Track evolution from P3 to qualifying, what you’ve got to do with your set-up to re-adjust it, how the soft tires behave in the race – I only know about that from the Bridgestone days, and I didn’t really run a soft Pirelli compound last year in free practice. So there’s a lot to learn and there are only a few tests before Melbourne. We’ve got a lot on our schedule, but it’s a good challenge!
Q: Apart from learning more about the tires, what are your goals in testing?
NH: I just have to get back in the groove, get some mileage, get the F1 feeling back, and just prepare. The important thing is to do a qualifying and race simulation as well, at the latest by the last Barcelona test. It’s what you would do usually, but maybe this time it’s a bit more for myself to prepare.
Q: What are your thoughts on Di Resta? Obviously he’s going to be your main rival this year.
NH: I know Paul very well from last year, and I saw what he could do. I think he did a very good and a competitive rookie season. Having a winter and then coming back for your second year, you’ve got to be stronger, it’s natural. You can have a good think about things. I think we both have a very competitive nature, and we both had some great success before F1. It’s going to be competitive, and at the same time what I could see from last year is that we work well together. It’s a healthy rivalry between us, we can push ourselves to the limit, and the team can be pushed to the limit as well, which is good.
Q: Do you have similar driving styles and set-up preferences?
NH: It’s difficult sometimes to make out the difference and you always think about your own set-up rather than your teammate’s. So I don’t know yet whether we have a similar driving style.
Q: The team did a great job to finish sixth last year. How tough is it going to be to repeat that, given the strength of the middle of the field?
NH: I think that’s the case every year, and if you look at how competitive it was in the midfield last year, there’s nothing new there. Obviously Williams wants to come back and push forward again - they want to make our life more difficult! We want to establish ourselves and maybe even gain one more place to be fifth in the constructors’, so it’s going to be interesting with Lotus as well.
Di Resta Q&A
With a new team mate in Nico Hulkenberg - and now, after its Friday launch, a new car - Force India’s Paul di Resta is targeting a successful 2012. And first on Di Resta’s agenda is to maintain the momentum which helped the team end last season so strongly. The Scot discusses the VJM05 and his hopes for the year ahead…
Q: Firstly, did you enjoy a relaxing winter and have a chance to recharge your batteries?
Paul di Resta: I stopped working just before Christmas and that was it until January 13th, so I had a chance to spend some quality time with family and friends, and switch off for a little bit. I pushed on with my training and I was in a good routine and really enjoying it. It was nice and quiet in Monaco and the weather was fantastic, so it encouraged me to get outside and get active.
Q: You got a feel for the VJM05 when you had your seat fitting. What are your impressions?
PdR: It’s looking quite good and the seat fit went very smoothly. The small issues I had last year were obviously considered in the design, which is what happens in your second year as part of a team - that’s one of the things that becomes a bit easier. I wouldn’t say the cockpit was tight last year, but I just couldn’t get low enough in the car, where I wanted to be.
Q: What is the team’s target with the new car?
PdR: The target is just to go forward really, from where we left off at the end of last year. We’ve got to start a bit stronger than we did last year - that will be key. We’ve also developed a lot of the things that we tried last year and now believe that it’s the way forward. I’m not going to say what it is, but you’ll see it as soon as the car hits the track!
Q: Last year the team ensured that the car was competitive at all types of tracks, rather than just places like Spa and Monza. Will we see that again this year?
PdR: We actually struggled a bit in terms of straight-line speed compared to others. So there was definitely a change. If you look at Hungary, it was one of our best results: a very strong performance across the whole weekend. So it’s good to keep going down that route. You need downforce, but you need efficiency, and it’s a question of how finely you balance that.
Q: How much stronger do you feel personally heading into the season, compared with this time last year?
PdR: A lot stronger. I’ve been training as hard as I ever have, really pushing on for the last few weeks. As I said, I’m getting myself into that routine and just pushing the body to another level. For some reason my life is just a lot more stable - it just lets you concentrate on the bits you need to as and when they come in. The other benefit is that I now have a year under my belt. Whether it’s making decisions on travel arrangements or just analyzing your time, you can really see what you didn’t like last year and what affected you, and just put it right.
Q: The Pirelli tires were new for everyone last year. Did you feel comfortable with them?
PdR: It’s difficult to say because it was my first year, but it was not easy, because they were changing a lot and there was a big difference between them. At the same time everyone gets to run with the same tires and it’s about making them work. It was all about doing it at the right point in the weekend, especially during qualifying.
Q: You have a new team mate in Nico Hulkenberg - are you looking forward to working with him?
PdR: Obviously Nico was already part of the team last year. I’ve known him for a long time and I’m sure we will work well together. At the same time you do have that bit of competitive nature, and you bounce off each other and push the team to take that little bit of an extra step.
Q: It’s an unusual situation, because you’ve both done one season of racing, and one year of Friday FP1s - albeit not in the same order!
PdR: We’re on equal territory. He’s probably done a bit more mileage than me in an F1 car, and he knows all the tracks, so there’s not really any disadvantage for him. And he knows the team.
Q: You often shared a car with Hulkenberg on Fridays last year. Did you learn from that whether you have similar styles, and perhaps would like the new car to develop in the same direction?
PdR: The testing priorities were always different, and even between FP1 and FP2 the car would change - they would generally try new things with Nico when he was in the car just to get a bit of an idea, even if it was about future races. So I don’t really know - I think that will develop over the winter.
Q: The competition in the middle of the pack is very strong. Do you agree that it’s not going to be easy to repeat last year’s form?
PdR: True, we’ve got a job in hand to maintain sixth. At the end of last year we punched way higher than I think we should have, and credit to the team for their ambition. I think everybody is still on a high from that and hopefully that will push us to another level again. But it’s going to take a lot of dedication to achieve that. We have to start off where we finished last year and keep pushing in that direction.
Q: Looking at the overall package can you see any reason why you can’t do that?
PdR: There’s definitely no reason why we can’t. We’ve had good stability and we have the same technical staff, and the same partners: Mercedes-Benz for engine and KERS, and McLaren for gearbox and hydraulics. So everything is very stable and has carried on over. It almost feels like there’s not been an end of the season and a beginning of the new one. Everybody’s in the same state of mind.
Andy Green Q&A
They finished sixth in the 2011 standings and for 2012 Force India’s 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. What’s 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. We’re happy with the strategy we’ve got and we’re pushing the boundaries even further. So we’re going to use what we learned last year as the foundation. There’s been a bit of clawing back to do with the exhaust regulations and that’s 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. It’s just that unknown of where everyone else is - and we won’t 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 there’s 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 couldn’t get it to work at the end of 2010 and that’s 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: It’s smaller and lighter. It’s 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. It’s a fantastic system, and we’re very happy with it. There are little detail changes, but essentially it’s 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. We’re aware that we weren’t that competitive at Monza, so we’ll make sure we’ll address that for 2012.
Q: Obviously last year the team had to learn a lot about the Pirelli tires. Has that fed back into this car?
AG: We learned a huge amount about the tires and everything we’ve learned has been incorporated into the design of the VJM05. We’ve given ourselves some maneuverability on suspension design and characteristics which will help us at different tracks that demand different things from the tires. So we’re 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 recognized early on that we wanted to maneuver out of them, but we couldn’t! 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 shouldn’t be the big focus that it was in 2011. We’re carrying on the development from last year - it’s 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! That’s 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 I’m looking at now is all the development parts. We’re 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 we’re 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. That’s really what we’re 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: I’m looking forward to seeing Nico (Hulkenberg) in the car and it will be Paul’s (di Resta’s) second year, so I don’t think we could ask for a stronger line-up. It gives us an extra edge - they will extract a higher percentage of the car’s performance than other drivers, which is great for us. I’m looking forward to the racing now!