Checking the points situation just now I was kind of surprised to see just how far behind fourth-placed Lotus the Force India team are in fifth. They may be at the head of the midfield group — and incredibly ahead of McLaren — but they have less than one third of the points Lotus have accumulated in the first ten races of this 19 race season. And that surprised me, because all season long Paul di Resta and Adrian Sutil seemed to have been there or thereabouts, not quite at the front, but certainly ahead of the middle.
Di Resta, who seems to have picked up fellow countryman Andy Murray’s old, dour personality cheap on eBay, equalled his best result with that fourth place in Bahrain, and from fifth on the grid. And it could so easily have been third and a first podium for the Scot (and heaven knows maybe a Murray-style personality transformation) but Romain Grosjean took the place. Lotus really are the team Force India would like to be.
Could they be? Well, despite the exotic ownership structures, both Force India and Lotus are old-school teams who’ve changed identity as often as Sebastian Vettel’s swapped lids in the last 12 months. Yet neither have ever lost that easy-going racing culture that permeates British-based F1 teams with one foot in the past. Force India started life as Jordan don’t forget and have never quite escaped the sense that it’s still living from day-to-day with regard to its finances. Then again the same rumours dog Lotus whose bigger budget doesn’t completely explain why it’s so much further ahead. I suspect Lotus is just that little bit more like Red Bull, and Force India that little bit more like, well, Jordan.
Certainly there have been moments when the team has suffered melt downs; Malaysia where the team could not get the wheels on either car will be one to forget as will the endless stream of mess-ups with getting Paul di Resta through Q1, which should be mere formality with a car that has the speed of this year’s VJM06. Don’t forget the two Force Indias filled the third row at Bahrain and should have done the same at Silverstone but for another silly procedural mistake. Maybe the endless series of face-palm moments the team insists on forcing on di Resta explains the man’s general lack of sunshine.
Still he will be smiling inside at having the advantage over Adrian Sutil, hardly a ray of lightness in the dark himself. That di Resta has really had to earn the 13 point advantage over his teammate, regularly having to drive from the wrong end of the grid to make up for the team’s qualifying errors, must make it even more sweet. And yet it’s hard to imagine either driver moving on from Force India to a better driver.
Oddly last year di Resta and former teammate Nico Hulkenberg (who must surely be regretting jumping to Sauber in a misguided attempt to show himself to be a talent apart among the midfield drivers) were flavour of the month, linked to drives at McLaren (that one went to Perez) and Ferrari (that hasn’t happened — yet). But not now, when the best seat in the house is available.
Which sadly begs the question: what is a team like Force India for if it can’t be a stepping stone from the back to the front of the grid for new driving talent? Of all of Force India’s missed opportunities it must be surely be its failure to monopolise on new talent that must most frustrate former boss Eddie Jordan.
Half term grades
Force India: B minus
Di Resta: B plus
Sutil: B minus