100 not out for Force India

 

This weekend's Canadian Grand Prix marks the teams 100th in Formula 1. The start to the 2013 has been their most successful to date, with an impressive 44 points collected, seeing the team sit 5th in the Constructors Championship.

Consistency has been vital to the fruitful start. As a team they've scored in all but one race this season - that one being Malaysia, where continued problems in the pit lane caused both drivers to retire - and have even managed to bag 2 double points scoring finishes to date. Scoring steadily has been a trait of Force India for several years now, but the difference this time around has been the ability to secure a couple of early season top 5 finishes.

The aforementioned problems in Malaysia arguably cost the team another double points scoring finish, with both drivers looking strong in race trim. It could be argued that the team's inability to secure these double points finishes that have cost them when it comes to final positions in the Constructors Championship. In 2012 Force India scored points in 17 of the 20 races, but were only able to bring both cars home in the points on 4 occasions. The year before? 4. The year before that? 3. Consistent, but not spectacular.

Another issue I noticed, particularly during parts of last season, was often the failure to convert pace on a Saturday to that on a Sunday; or vice-versa. Strong one day, strangely off the pace the next. Frustrating for all involved I'm sure, but something that this season has been progressively getting better. Bar the odd error in qualifying (Monaco for Paul Di Resta being the prime example), the team have been regularly getting into Q3 and then more importantly, have been able to push on during race day and score 7 times out of 12; and 7 out of 9 when the car has finished.

One more thing that has been missing in recent seasons has been the lack of a podium finish. Main rivals Sauber and Williams both enjoyed headline grabbing moments last season, with 4 podium finishes for the Swiss outfit and a first victory for nigh on 7 years as Pastor Maldonado brilliantly beat Fernando Alonso in Barcelona. It's approaching four years since we last saw a Force India driver stand on the podium, and with recent opportunities in Brazil and Bahrain passing them by, have they missed the boat?

The struggles of both Sauber and Williams so far this year, combined with the worryingly slow start by McLaren, have given Force India that platform to move up. That's not to say they are there by default, not at all. The team have worked incredibly hard and have 2 very consistent, reliable drivers on board, as well as an excellent workforce, that have allowed the team to progress into that 5th spot. But the lack of a podium will be something all the team will want to resolve.

The second coming of Adrian Sutil, who appears to have fitted seamlessly back into the team, has been more than impressive. The general reaction, amongst fans at least, was not one of utter joy when his return was announcement. Even the biggest sceptics can't argue that he's done a very, very good job in the first 6 races. On the pace from the outset, leading the race in Australia, overtaking ex-world Champions in Monaco and regularly qualifying in the top half of the grid have seen the German not only impress his team, but many fans and on-lookers the world over.

His team mate Paul Di Resta, now in his third year with the team, appears to have taken that step up that I personally feared he wouldn't be to do. Whether that's because the car is stronger, whether it's because of the return of Sutil, or whether it's because he now feels he truly belongs in Formula 1, I'm not sure. He certainly appears to have upped his game, scoring points in 5 of the 6 races so far.

The lingering doubt over him (for me at least) still remains; where does he go from here? Will there be a drive for him at a top 3-4 team? Should he stay at Force India? How long can he stay at Force India? His start to this season will have caught the eye of many up and down the paddock, but I still fear for his long term future.

The start to 2013 has been great for Force India. A record high points haul (from the opening 6 races), 2 top 5 finishes, strong race pace and two drivers that seem to work well together and push each other and the team. The car looks fundamentally quick, and not just at a few race tracks like in previous years, but everywhere we've been so far. Yes, they've been aided by the struggles of others, but in Formula 1 that's what you have to do, right? As in everything in life, you must make the most of what you've got and take every opportunity presented to you.

Can that much sought-after podium come in Canada? Will the team continue their impressive start to the season? No points scored on their last two visits would suggest it might be tougher than previous races this season, but as stated earlier, the car appears to be strong around all types of circuit now. Expect to see Force India up there again, pushing for top 10 in qualifying and possibly more than that on race day.

Force India - an example of what can be achieved on track by taking small and steady progressive steps over a multi-year period. The 100 is up; and here's to many more 100's to come.

Paul Godley - 07/06/2013

Image source: Paul Di Resta in Monaco - via f1fanatic.co.uk

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