In just the last 10 years of Formula One, we have seen three teams rise and the same three fall. Struggling backmarkers, but fan favourites Hispania Racing (HRT), Team Lotus (Caterham) and Virgin (Marussia) all joined in 2010 to expand the grid too a high of 24 cars a brilliant sight for F1. However, at the end of 2016 and with the news of Marussia’s (then named after parent company, Manor Racing.) departure due to financial concern marked the disappearance of these three teams, with Caterham departing in 2014, and similarly HRT at the end of 2012, and during the course of the 2018 season it looked like the much loved Sahara Force India team were going that way as well.
Rising from the ashes of the Spyker and Midland F1 teams in the October of 2007 by Indian entrepreneur Vijay Mallya, Force India F1 made their debut at Melbourne in 2008, with F1 veteran, the Italian Giancarlo Fisichella and German Adrian Sutil as their drivers. The team, who once were the famous Jordan F1 team back in the day, predictably struggled in 2008, but improved vastly in 2009, with Fisichella taking an amazing pole position and a much deserved 2nd at the 2009 Belgian Grand Prix, coming second only to Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen on that day.
The beginning: 2008 Force India VJM01.
The team gained a reputation throughout it’s years as a team that could punch well above their weight despite their significantly lower budget as opposed to teams such as Red Bull and Ferrari. Indian company Sahara India Panwar purchased a 42.5% stake in the team in 2011, thus changing the team’s name to “Sahara Force India” ahead of the 2012 season. The team were particularly successful during the post 2013 Hybrid era, where the team scored a total of five podiums, all at the hands of Mexican Sergio Perez, and were in for their first win in Brazil in 2012 when German driver Nico Hulkenberg led the race before colliding with McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton.
The team have also finished in fourth in the constructors standings in 2016, and 2017, “best of the rest” finishing behind only Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull on those particular occasions. In 2017 Mercedes junior driver Esteban Ocon moved to the team to replace the outgoing Hulkenberg and the team seen a major change to their livery as pink was introduced for the first time on the VJM10, thanks to a major sponsorship deal with Water Treatment Systems company, BWT. Despite frequent on track clashes between Perez and Ocon throughout the season, the team’s fourth place in the championship seen them take a points total of 187, their highest ever score in the sport.
The team looked set for more of the same in 2018, despite a slow start, Perez once again scored a shock podium after the chaos in Baku and the team looked as quick as ever. However, as the days counted down to the Hungarian Grand Prix, it was announced that a member of the team’s creditors had sadly put the team into admistration. This creditor was revealed to be Perez himself, and he announced a statement via Social Media that he did not do it as an act for not being paid by the team as first thought, but in an effort to help the team and save the hundreds of jobs and livelihoods that existed within the team. Could Force India be saved? The future looked bleak.
Sergio Perez celebrates a fantastic third place on the podium, 2018 Azerbaijan Grand Prix.
Fortunately, a consortium of investors headed by none other than Canadian billionaire and investor Lawrence Stroll, father to Williams driver Lance Stroll, bought the assets of the team and set about saving the team and repaying the debts almost immediately. The newly established “Racing Point Force India” team made it’s debut at the following race in Spa and despite the FIA ruling the team a new entry to the championship and they having to start from last once again on zero points, the team looked as inspired as ever when Ocon and Perez qualified 3rd and 4th respectively and finishing 5th and 6th. With only eight rounds left post Spa to make up what they lost the team had an inspired fight back to 7th in the championship, beating what Sauber, Toro Rosso and long time rivals Williams achieved through the entire year.
Perez has been kept on at the team for 2019, while Ocon will be replaced by Stroll, who predictably will be making the move from Williams. Sadly Ocon has been left without a drive for 2019 because of this, but Mercedes have ensured they’ll keep the promising Frenchman under their wing and do all they can to promise him a seat for 2020. However, we will sadly see the iconic Force India name disappear as a name change is scheduled for 2019, but like Jordan before it, the name, memories and legacy will live on with the fans. Lawrence Stroll is very optimistic for the future of his new team, and I am happy that all those jobs are at least secured and seem in safe hands for the future. Despite your preference, it’s always awful to think of losing a team from the sport, especially when you remember how many lives and families that play a role beyond what you see every Sunday, and I for one will never forget the amazing accomplishments and fantastic fighting spirit that will continue to live on in this little team from Silverstone.