April 6 2014. When half of India was glued to their TV sets, Cricinfo’s live scorecard or any of the dozens of websites live-streaming the World Twenty20 final between India and Sri Lanka, quite a sizable chunk of us were frantically catching up with the updates from another sport. Partly to escape the cacophony of the overdose of the political advertisements between the overs and partly to witness history bring made in the Bahrain GP. Force India had arrived.
Finally after seven long years of small specks of brilliance, this Silverstone based Indian Team has delivered. A podium finish. Pure Class. Pure Dominance. At the end of the race, the championship tables looked something like this. Force India placed 2nd in the Constructors’ Table. And Nico ‘The Hulk’ Hulkenberg placed third in the Drivers’ Championship.
The picture wasn’t always this rosy. Force India’s seven years in the cruel unforgiving world of Formula1 was laden with numerous financial, technological and not to forget, political challenges. Which of course the team tirelessly warded off with sheer hard work and determination. It all started in 2007 when Indian Liquor Baron Dr. Vijay Mallaya along with Michael Mol bought the cash strapped Spyker Team. There was a huge media frenzy and a wave of elation among the F1 enthusiasts in India when Dr. Mallaya decided to christen the team as Force India. It surely was a dream coming to life to imagine an Indian Team, with a car sporting Indian colors racing burning the racetracks all around the world! Until now we had to settle down with pledging allegiance to other European Teams.
Being a follower (albeit a bit passive) of Formula, the small fraternity of Indian Formula 1 fans were wise enough not to expect too much from the newbies of the sport which was dominated by teams throwing around their weight since the last 60 years. The expectations were simple. Don’t come last. And two names virtually unknown to us during that time, Adrian Sutil and Giancarlo Fisichella stayed true to their targets and brought us a 10th position in the Championships standings. A humble result. But we did take that happily!
- Points: 0
- Position : 10
Now, the Formula 1 craze had somewhat spread to the mainstream Indian youth, owing to the fact that an ‘Indian Team’ is racing. The interest levels were definitely higher this time around. But points weren’t coming by. We flirted with points quite a few times but only to be left heartbroken at the last moment. Sometimes due to bad luck and some times due to freak accidents caused by arch enemy Kimi Raikkonen (You are still one of my favorites though Iceman!). After months of being place at the ‘Zero Points’ zone, Giancarlo Fisichella became an overnight sensation by doing the unexpected. A pole position in the Belgian GP followed by a 2nd place finish on race day! (Which I still believe we could have easily won if we had KERS!) But sadly, the hero soon became a villain in the hearts of Force India fans when Fishicella ditched the team to join Ferrari soon after the race. The heartbreak was almost instantaneously mended when Adrian Sutil qualified 2nd in the very next race and finished 4th on raceday! So the podium at Spa wasn’t just an one-off incident. This time, at the championship Tables, Force India finished 9th.
- Points: 13
- Position: 9
Following the late heroics of last year, this time we all had huge expectation from Force India. Now we were no more the back markers of the grid. Force India was poised to take on the midfield. Piloted by Adrian Sutil and Vitantonio Liuzzi (and child prodigy Paul di Resta as the test driver), the VJM03 gave a tough fight to the midfield cars and regularly finished among the points. Although Luizzi was a lackluster replacement to Fishichella, Force India improved and finished 7th on the Championship Table at the end of the year.
- Points: 68
- Position: 7
The year 2011 marked the year when Force India started punching over its weight regularly with Boy Wonder Paul di Resta now promoted to a race seat with Force India veteran Adrian Sutil. Points finishes were common place now. Though individual performances didn’t go higher than 6th place finishes on races, Force India played a strong contender in the midfield finishing narrowly behind heavyweights Renault at 6th place in the Championship Table at the end of the year.
- Points: 69
- Position: 6
This year was probably the toughest year for Force India at Formula 1. Adrian Sutil had to give up his seat at the team owing to unfortunate circumstances. Expectations were really high on the time. The fans expected Force India to be the ‘Best of the Rest’. And the VJM05 manned by two of the most talented drivers Adrian Sutil and Nico ‘The Hulk’ Hulkenberg, Force India was looking strong to break into the big league. The Hulk was especially strong finishing in the top 6 quite a few times. But unluckily, Force India for the first time dropped a place to the 7th position in the Championship Tables at the end of the year.
- Points: 109
- Position: 7
Patience among the fans were running out. The team which was taking rapid strides in the circuit over the year has now dropped a place instead of breaking into the big league! And now The Hulk had moved on. Anyway, the Force India loyalist Adrian Sutil was back after a year long hiatus. And boy, he was back with a bang! The duo of Adrian Sutil and Paul di Resta accumulated a lot of points amongst them in the first few races, regularly finishing among the points. Force India was back! Or was it? Soon as the European leg started, all of a sudden, Force India was suddenly out of the top ten finishes. And to make matters worse, Dr. Mallaya pulled off the plug for the development of the car and focused on the development on next year’s VJM07. This was frustrating to us fans who were finally thinking that Force India has moved on from the ‘Best of the Rest’ status to the Big League of ‘The Front Runners’. But little did we know that this minor strategic move of investing more time and money on the next year’s V6 1.6L engines based on the new regulation would be such an effective Gambit! Anyway, Force India still managed to pull off a respectable 6th position on the championship table.
- Points: 77
- Position: 6
The rudest shock before the 2014 season was that both Paul Di Resta and Adrian Sutil were given the pink slips. The disappointment of last year’s abysmal performance in the later half of the season turned into anger when the two of the most loved drivers of Force India were removed. This was somewhat compensated by the fact that The Hulk will be back to Force India (And yeah, the stunning looking new black car!). But fans made their animosity clear over the fact that Sergio Perez was roped in too.
Well, it didn’t take long enough to shut the mouths of us stupid fans! The Hulk is now placed third in the Drivers’ Table and Perez gave us our first podium finish for the first time in five years! We all forgot about the boot given to Di Resta and Sutil. We all forgot about the debacle of last year’s second half. None of us now mind the horrible sound of the 1.6L V6 Turbocharged engines. We have finally arrived! We are finally dominating the time sheets! We are finally in the Big League! We are just keeping our fingers crossed that Force India continues to keep this momentum for the rest of the season. Who knows! Maybe in an year or two we might be the World Champions! Until then, wear your Force India jersey and Feel The Force.