The Story So Far
Force India have had a fantastic 2016. A pair of podiums and consistent point scoring has seen them gain headlines and publicity a plenty. They sit in a nice 5th place in the constructors championship and are in a tight battle with Williams for 4th. There were minimal expectations for Force India going into this year but they are on pace to top last year’s points total and if they can keep nipping at the heels of Williams then Vijay Mallya will be very happy.
|Sergio Perez||Nico Hulkenberg|
The third place finishes in Monaco and Baku stand out as by far the best results and they give Sergio Perez a good edge in the standings but he has not dominated Nico Hulkenberg this season. Hulkenberg has out qualified Perez 7-5, and while Perez has had some mechanical issues on saturdays Hulkenberg has had is own problems as well. Both drivers have 7 points finishes but the headlines of brilliant drives in Monaco and Baku from Perez have given him all the plaudits this season.
It’s no surprise to see Perez take advantage of optimum conditions and wind up on the podium. They were the 4th and 5th of his career and have sparked fresh talk of Perez moving onto bigger teams again. For Hulkenberg it has been something of a “what if” season. His 3rd place qualification in Austria was boosted to second by a penalty for Nico Rosberg but chaotic race of safety cars and poor tyre degradation left him floundering in the mid-pack and he ended up not finishing the race.
A lot of Force India’s production has come from the big Mercedes power unit in the back of the car but beyond that Force India have put together a nice package. They haven’t been bulletproof in terms of reliability or strategically – particularly in Baku where miscommunication cost Nico Hulkenberg a place in Q3 – but they have generally had a good year up on the pit wall. They timed Perez’s stops perfectly in Monaco to avoid the traffic and keep him ahead of Sebastian Vettel. Force India were caught out early in the season by the qualifying rules but once they were scrapped they came back with undeniable quality.
While Nico Hulkenberg is secured for the 2017 season Sergio Perez has yet to say where he will be driving next year. With the major teams having their seats locked down I doubt he will depart a team where he is extremely comfortable and settled for Williams.
Owner Vijay Mallya is confident that there is a little more performance to be drawn out of the 2016 package and he is probably right, but there needs to be a focus on next year as well with all the regulation changes. Spa and particularly Monza should be good venues for Force India and I don’t foresee any major issues for the team. They are very settled in Formula One now 9 years on since entering the sport. Consistency has been key for Force India and they have two extremely consistent drivers, Hulkenberg is probably the best driver to not stand on the F1 Podium yet and Perez absolutely deserves the praise he has received this season. Force India have been one of the big feel good stories of 2016 and I expect them to continue that performance into the second part of the season.