Sergio Perez is not well liked within the sport and has been accused publicly by the influential F1 voices of Jo Ramirez and Livio Oricchio of ‘arrogance’.
Yet the Mexican’s self-belief leads him to speak his mind, which at times is telling. Speaking in Shanghai, Sergio reveals that “We’re quite far from the team ahead of us so in that respect, we need a big step in terms of pace.”
Further, Perez candidly reveals: “But if we don’t make the step that we are hoping for then it’s going to be a very painful year.”
The reality of the situation is that despite both cars scoring points in Melbourne, only 11 cars finished the race, and the Force India’s were ahead of just the McLaren Honda of Jenson Button. One race later, the Force India cars finished the race a lap down and ahead of one other car still running.
Sergio’s assessment appears fair – if not an understatement.
The tale of woe began for the Silverstone based team began in January when Force India revealed they would be running the ‘old 2014 car’ at the first test in Jerez. The official story from Vijay’s PR machine at the time was that the all-new VJM08 was receiving some fine aero tuning in the ‘new’ wind tunnel they were using in Cologne
These aero findings were implied to be imminent and substantive.
A week later, the team released a statement, which said Force India preferred to save the £500,000 and not run in Jerez at all. The VJM07 would therefore run for the second test in Barcelona, with Mercedes reserve driver Pascal Wehrlein behind the wheel for days 1 and 2. Presumably, Mercedes were paying for the privilege of their reserve driver receiving track time ahead of Hulkenberg and Perez.
Then TJ13 discovered and exclusively revealed that the new Force India car which would eventually hit the track with just 3 winter test days remaining, had been held to ransom and was holed up in a warehouse on the English South Coast until Mallya released cash for ‘works done’ by Formaplex (article: Piranha club is alive and kicking ).
Yet when the ‘new car’ finally broke cover, it didn’t take the tech analysis long to realise this was a VJM07.5 – merely upgraded to meet the 2015 nose height regulations; along with some side pod re-sculpturing and ‘hidden’ suspension upgrades.
However, Force India’s technical director, Andrew Green, would simply admit that “Throughout 2015, we will be looking forward to bringing updates to the car from start to finish; the first significant package should be at the beginning of the European season and it will be the first batch of upgrades based solely on the work done at the new wind tunnel.”
Yesterday Bob Fernley conceded that Force India would now be introducing their new 2015 car in Austria.
“It’s a major B-spec car as we’re looking to introduce a significant upgrade”.
Formula One Teams are reluctant to ever admit to ‘B-spec’ cars, usually because it means the new car designed for the year was fundamentally flawed, requires replacing and the ‘B-spec’ car is in actuality a new design.
In Force India’s case, this is clearly the car that we were supposed to see in the first Barcelona test.
When asked why the launch of the VJM08 proper had been delayed so, Bob Fernley replied: “We’ve just been getting the wind tunnels operating.
“People don’t realise what a big programme it is to move it to Cologne.”
It appears Force India didn’t realise the size of the project either, when they declared their VJM08 car would be good to go early in winter testing.
The real problem behind the scenes is not getting wind tunnels operating, but cash. Force India’s crediting rating has collapsed with suppliers and despite Ecclestone’s $10m advance to cope with this, the team are struggling to deliver the car that was due in February – it will now be late in June.
Vijay Mallya once declared as the ‘funder of our team’ appears reluctant if able to put any more cash into Force India. Co-Owner of the team and principal of the Sahara organisation, Subrata Roy, is now about to complete a year behind bars in New Delhi. Roy and Sahara were accused of defrauding millions of small investors, but the latest news on the matter is they may in fact have been washing billions of dirty dollars from global crime syndicates.
Further, Grant Thornton the auditors of the Silverstone based team, issued a qualified their opinion in November 2014 regarding the projected income of the Force India team. “This material uncertainty may cast significant doubt about the company’s ability to continue as a going concern.”
It should then be no surprise the subsequent farce over the VJM08 ensued.
Sergio Perez is right to feel dejected, because Force India are usually fast out of the blocks each year and fade towards the season end. This year there isn’t much fading that can be done – other than to fall behind McLaren and Manor F1.
“It’s really hard to keep motivated going into a race knowing it’s going to be a really hard race” commented Sergio.
Bob Fernley blamed Marussia and Caterham last month for the state of affairs F1 teams now found themselves – namely having to pay on completion of work – for work done by sub-contractors.
This has clearly hindered the Silverstone team’s ability to deliver their 2015 car due, originally due in February.
The excitement for most F1 observers this weekend will be whether Ferrari can keep pressing Mercedes into close racing. Yet for those who appreciate irony, the race at the back between Force India and Manor F1 holds far more intrigue.
Despite Force India objecting to Manor F1 running a 2014 car, possibly believing this would scupper their 2015 entry, both teams are struggling to get their full 2015 designs to track before the half way point of the year.
The Bonhomie amongst F1 strugglers is now gone, and a race for survival grips both set of racers.