Vijay Mallya on Fast Track: Good Long-Term Decisions Behind Force India Success in F1
'Before a pound is spent we ask, will it make the car go any faster'
In the last 10 seasons, Force India has made a steady growth from being last on the grid to now finishing fourth twice in the Formula 1 constructors’ championship. For several years, the team has been given the ‘punching above the weight’ tag and rightly so.
More often the privateers are fighting for either Top 5 finishes or points scoring positions and every once in a while, they get themselves in the podium contention. A grand prix win is a rare sight these days for the midfield teams.
Force India has thus made a huge impression of performing outstandingly despite the shortcomings and several media speculations. One of the key reasons for the team to do so well in the championship is by keeping the core team intact, even though when poaching is common in the sport.
“I think the size of our team forces us to justify every pound spent,” said Team Principal Vijay Mallya. “Before any project is given the green light, we ask: ‘Will it make the car go faster?’ We rely on good long-term decision-making because there are no quick fixes in Formula One.
“Our competitiveness today is a combination of the good decisions made during the last ten years. The leadership of Otmar Szafnauer and Andrew Green has brought us great vision and the conviction to follow through on important strategic decisions, such as the shift to the wind tunnel in Cologne. We have also invested in the right people in all areas of the team and at all levels.”
This sentiment was echoed by Chief Operating Officer Szafnauer. In fact, he revealed the team expanded its CFD capacity and also had some key personnel changes in the team for a better 2018. “In reality the focus has been on continuity – retaining drivers, senior team members, and staff at all levels,” he said.
“That’s been our strength in recent years. In terms of resource, we’ve bolstered our CFD capacity and there have been some personnel changes in the engineering team. The plan [for us] remains to bring everything under one roof eventually, but it’s a massive undertaking and won’t happen overnight.
“It’s a process that will take a number of years and we are exploring the best way to make those changes without impacting negatively on performance. Ultimately, it’s a financial consideration as well and we won’t make those infrastructure changes at the expense of car development.”
Among the drivers, Sergio Perez continues with the team for his fifth year, while Esteban Ocon stays on for his second season. In terms of officials, Szafnauer has been with the team since 2009 with Deputy Team Principal Robert Fernley there since the start, same as Team Manager Andy Stevenson and Technical Director Andrew Green there since 2010.
Meanwhile, time and again, the team has been reminded of the challenges the new season brings, especially with teams like Williams, Renault and McLaren around. Even though Force India has managed to beat them, still every new season, the question pops up, if it can defeat them again?
“Everybody keeps telling me that it will be difficult to repeat the double fourth place, but I see no reason why we cannot consolidate our position and improve,” said Mallya. “Yes, Formula One is a very tough and competitive environment, but we are an established team with continuity in all areas of the company.
“We don’t take anything for granted, but we will be disappointed if we are not fighting for points at every race this year.” Szafnauer added: “We always look to improve or at the very least to hold station, which means at least fourth place is the objective once again.
“I’d like to think we can close the gap to the top three teams as well. At the same time, we don’t underestimate any of the teams on the grid and it’s fair to say that beating teams such as Williams, Renault and McLaren will be a huge challenge in 2018.”