Every year Force India are written off and every year Vijay Mallya’s little team claims the big scalps and exceeds everyone’s expectations.
However Force India’s fairlytale journey in Formula 1 so far, which saw them claim an unprecedented fourth in the constructors’ championship last season, has to run out of steam at some point like every underdog before them.
In fact, Force India rose out of the ashes of one of F1’s greatest ever independents in Jordan (albeit not before a brief Midland/Spyker ownership period) so giant-killing is in their roots. Jordan’s top team toppling came to and end and so will Force Indias at some point, unless they were to secure significant funding.
Whether or not 2017 will be the year that it ends, remains to be seen. But with new regulations and the extra freedom of development, Force India are running at a real risk of getting lost in the development race.
In fact, one of the team’s biggest rivals Renault, have spoken out about their concerns about the smaller independent teams been swallowed up in the 2017 arms race.
“I think this season will be an arms race, and I really feel for the teams who are under-resourced,” said Renault’s managing director Cyril Abiteboul.
“Race-by-race we have got introduction of new parts. Resources will be very difficult for the small teams. I believe that most of the car build budget of a Force India will be gone by now, just to cope with the new regulations.
“We should be easily capable of beating teams like Haas and Force India and so on.”
It’s a bold and brave statement from Abiteboul and Force India boss Vijay Mallya was quick to hit back; “He might have to eat his words. It’s not the amount of arms you have, it’s the quality of your weaponry.”
Force India have certainly never struggled with the ‘quality of (their) weaponry’ and it’s no different in 2017. They have managed to retain the large majority of their 2016 squad and they seem to have built a solid, stable team. They may have lost Nico Hulkenberg to rivals Renault but they have gained the highly talented Esteban Ocon
Ocon was beaten by Pascal Wehrlein at Manor last season but he showed more than enough potential to set himself up as the ideal replacement when Hulkenberg announced his switch to Renault. From beating Max Verstappen to the 2014 European Formula 3 title, to triumphing in one of the closest ever GP3 title battles, Ocon’s junior record leaves little to be desired.
At just 20, Ocon has the potential to become the man to lead Force India in the future and although he will undoubtedly make mistakes this year, he’s going to give Perez a real run for his money and will likely silence his few remaining doubters. He certainly has the motivation, and the career path is obvious with Valtteri Bottas arguably only a temporary solution at Mercedes.
Perez will act as a brilliant mentor, as a driver who has matured drastically since he entered the sport in 2011. Perez is just one great season away from returning to a manufacturer, but for now can enjoy been a big fish in a small pond.
Force India’s future does look bright, despite constant reminders and threats from other team’s of their impending downturn in form. Their future prospects were greatly boosted by their recent reveal of their partnership with BWT and their striking new livery, which clearly shows their commitment is long term and not just a novelty one race affair.
Furthermore with Liberty Media’s acquisition of Formula 1 and their target of levelling the playing field is going to play right into Force India’s hands. Though this won’t come into effect in this decade, it offers much needed hope for new investors.
There is a strong argument to suggest Force India are currently F1’s most efficient team, and despite the new regulations, escalating costs and development, it would take a brave person to write Force India off in 2017 tight midfield race.