Motorsport Week continues its team-by-team mid-season review with Force India, which has had a solid season on-track, complicated by struggles and strife off-track.
Force India has been the epitome of efficiency in recent seasons but having reached the heights of fourth place it was perhaps inevitable that it would eventually get dragged back into the midfield scrap, especially with its engine advantage becoming less pronounced. That it holds only sixth is no shame – considering it entered administration and has spent much of the first half of the year stymied by update delays owing to the financial constraints. The early races yielded little, off the back of an indifferent pre-season, but Sergio Perez’s opportunistic podium in Azerbaijan provided a much-needed boost, and three double points finishes in a row, prior to its typical Hungary slump, gives further hope that the VJM11 is on the right track. Now that a deal has been reached for a consortium of businessmen, led by Lawrence Stroll, to take over the team, let’s hope that developments waiting in the pipeline will be given the green light to allow the team to do what it does best.
Having been the lead midfield driver across the past two years Perez has cut a more inconsistent figure this year, not gelling with the VJM11 to the extent as he did with the car’s predecessors. He has scored points in only five of the 12 Grands Prix, but holds a top 10 placement in the standings, much of which is owed to his podium in Azerbaijan. In a crazy race it was typically Perez who avoided the drama that befell others to pluckily collect a rostrum finish, his first since the corresponding event in 2016. Perez admitted that the mental strain of the team’s recent financial woes had a negative impact on him, especially in light of his decision to begin proceedings that led to its administration. He deserved commendation for his actions. On-track, it was always going to be tough to live up to the regular points of 2017 – but this year he does at least have a trophy!
Ocon has had a quietly impressive second year in the sport, though the fact he has out-qualified Perez 9-3 is offset by the less-than-a-tenth gap between them on average, a continuation of their closely-matched 2017 battle. Ocon was a standout midfielder in Monaco and has added a healthy haul of points elsewhere, and the usual couple of first-lap scrapes on occasion, with Kimi Raikkonen in Azerbaijan (a frustratingly clumsy clash that denied him a potential podium) and friend-turned-foe Pierre Gasly in France. The issue as it stands is where does he go next? Mercedes has locked down its drivers for another year while the mooted Renault option no longer exists – leaving a third year with Force India possible, should a seat remain open. If not? Williams? It risks not only stagnating Ocon’s development but resulting in the Frenchman joining the growing logjam of talents at midfield teams.
Mid-season review: Williams falls to last
Mid-season review: Revitalised Sauber back in the groove
Mid-season review: Patchy STR making gains
Mid-season review: McLaren gets a reality check