AUGUST 25, 2008

Tensions at Force India

The Force India team has been doing rather better this year than in previous incarnations in previous seasons, thanks in large part to the arrival of Indian billionaire Vijay Mallya, who has provided the team with financial stability. Mallya and team principal Colin Kolles have been pushing hard to try to move up the grid and the engineers, led by Mike Gascoyne, have made a lot of progress. The team has moved forwards and is now much closer to the main F1 pack. Given that the budget of Force India is still tiny in comparison to the big manufacturer operations and that, unlike Scuderia Toro Rosso, the team designs and builds its own cars, the progress has been solid and quite impressive, particularly when one considers that the car is a much-modified old chassis, dating back a couple of years. This seems like a good foundation on which to build, but it seems that this is not enough for some of those involved. They believe that Force India should be scoring points. The closest the team came was at Monaco where Adrian Sutil stayed out of trouble and was on his way to points when he was nerfed off the road by Kimi Raikkonen.

Force India has registered only 11 finishes in 24 starts this year, with the retirements being split fairly evenly between accidents and mechanical failures. In some races where there have been finishes there have been other accidents and other mechanical problems which did not result in retirements. This has led to frustration in both camps. The management seems to think that the drivers can be forgiven most things because they are having to drive hard and so mistakes are inevitable. Others argue the pair make too many errors.

The relationships within the team have been deteriorating gradually in recent months and, despite the long-delayed arrival of the team's seamless gearshift, we hear that they have now got to a point at which action is necessary. It seems that this will boil down to a decision between team principal Kolles and engineer Mike Gascoyne. The team would probably be better off trying to manage its expectations and get everyone working together, but neither Kolles nor Gascoyne seem very interested in compromise. If there has to be a decision between the two it will be important to consider if there may be other ramifications and other people departing.