It was a record-breaking year for Force India in 2016. They secured 4th in the Constructors after a season-long battle with Williams, registered their highest points tally ever, collecting 173 points thanks to some calculated driving from Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg.
The turning point in 2016 emerged at the Spanish Grand Prix, after a significant update was applied to both cars and yielded massive gains. At the time, Force India made it clear that the starting point of their focus on 2017 would be delayed should the upgrade provide a foundation for progress in 2016. Back in May, Force India’s chief operating officer Otmar Szafnauer said,
“The decision-making process is to see what this package yields, and also to see what would be required to improve it – a big programme or a little programme.
If there are improvements that can be made without taking up too much resource for a team of our size then we will have further improvements this year.”
– Otmar Szafnauer
It’s safe to say that the Barcelona upgrades did provide a solid foundation in which to build for the rest of 2016 and now, focus is firmly fixed on hitting the ground running next year. Deputy team principal Bob Fernley believes that the development race next year will be even more intense with potential gains more likely under the reset regulations.
“The launch cars will obviously give us some idea of where everybody is. Where the bigger teams have the advantage over the independent teams is that they will be able to start flowing their upgrades through very quickly. We won’t have the resource to do it quite as quickly.
But hopefully the steps that we’ll take will be measured and we’ll be able to stay with it, more or less. We mustn’t underestimate the speed of development of the ’17 cars. It will be phenomenal, certainly in the first three or four months of the season.
We’ve been working on next year’s car for some time. A lot of the performance that came out of the ’16 car was latent, and we knew it was there. It was just a case of pulling it through.
In some ways I’m quite excited about ’17, because one of the good things that we did in terms of being able to get things on a level playing field is that we brought in the current wind tunnel and CFD limitations.”
– Bob Fernley
The team have a relatively untested quantity in the promising Esteban Ocon, who will parter Perez next season. Testing will commence in February and usually an early order is determined. But the implication that there will be more score for in-season upgrades suggests that this order will shuffle around significantly in the opening half of the 2017 season.