F1 » Sahara Force India F1 Team
The former Jordan squad has gone through a number of different incarnations in recent years and the latest has seen the squad re-branded the Force India F1 team.
Jordan Grand Prix itself was founded in the early 1990's by Eddie Jordan and the team made an immediate impact on the F1 scene, wheeling out the very attractive, Gary Anderson designed, 7-Up sponsored 191 chassis in 1991. The car was to have been designated 911, but Porsche objected!
With the experienced - if accident prone - Andrea de Cesaris behind the wheel, Jordan gradually made its way towards the front of the grid. Having escaped from the pre-qualifying sessions, which used to precede the regular GP weekend, Jordan began to feature as regular point scorers. de Cesaris took fourth at the Canadian GP to open the team's account, and almost led the Belgian race before retiring.
The other seat proved even more eventful, however, with original driver Bertrand Gachot jailed for assaulting a London taxi driver and replacement Michael Schumacher being poached by Benetton after just one race. Roberto Moreno and rookie Alex Zanardi saw out the season.
The combination of under-rated Hart engines and the exciting talent of Rubens Barrichello brought the team back to the forefront in 1993, with the Brazilian coming close to a podium finish at Donington Park's European GP. Had the second seat been more settled - and not featured a total of five faces during the season, the team could have managed better than 10th place overall.
Having signed Eddie Irvine for a controversial debut in Japan, Jordan continued with the partnership with Barrichello for another two seasons, returning to the top six in the Constructors' series. Although Irvine began the season by incurring a three race ban following an accident in Brazil, the pair took the team's first podium finishes in Canada before Barrichello scored Jordan's first pole position at Spa-Francorchamps in 1995.
The team maintained a top five presence in the Constructors' standings despite some varied results between 1995 and 1997. With Irvine leaving for Ferrari in 1996, and Barrichello departing for Stewart the following year, Jordan could have suffered greatly, but the impressive combination of then rookies Giancarlo Fisichella and Ralf Schumacher, and works Peugeot engines, kept the team in the hunt for victories in 1997.
It was all change for 1998, however, with Damon Hill replacing Benetton-bound Fisichella and Mugen taking over from Peugeot. The 198 chassis proved difficult to set up in the early part of the year, and Jordan found itself scrapping with Minardi for eighth and ninth places in Monaco, before executing a dramatic about-turn after the half-way point in France.
Schumacher started the ball rolling with sixth place - and the team's first point of the season - at Silverstone and, from then on, the heavily revised Jordan's scored in almost every race. The highest point, however, came at the sodden and carnage-strewn Belgian GP, where Hill led his team-mate home for the team's first win. The party that night was riotous - even by Jordan's standards!
For 1999, an Anglo-German partnership continued to pedal the new 199 chassis, but Heinz-Harald Frentzen swapped seats with Schumacher and moved over from Williams. Gone, too, was long-time designer Gary Anderson, replaced by ex-Tyrrell man Mike Gascoyne. The new car was a revision of the latterly successful 198, and continued to utilise the reliable - and increasingly powerful - Mugen V10 engine. This was put to good effect as Frentzen recovered from his Grove nightmare to notch up wins in France and Italy, and almost put together a title challenge. Hill, however, disappointed pondering over his decision to retire before eventually sliding out of the sport after parking his 199 on three occasions.
The Englishman was replaced by Italian star Jarno Trulli for 2000, while Jordan fielded the radical-looking EJ10. So named to commemorate the team's tenth season in the top flight, the car impressed with its speed in testing and it was hoped that it would allow them to again challenge the sport's big two.
Jordon were though perhaps the biggest disappointment of the 2000 season with Frentzen and Trulli mustering only 17 points between them amidst a long list of mechanical failures that thwarted the team during the year. The gearbox was the first sticking point and the team suffered no less than 11 mechanical failures during the year, dropping behind Williams, BAR and Benetton in the constructors chase.
For 2001 the team retained its driver line-up, and added Ricardo Zonta to the staff as the official test driver.
The year proved to be largely disappointing, however, with neither Frentzen nor Trulli really delivering the goods. The Italian showed flashes of potential in qualifying but again apparently lacked the same sort of commitment in races, while Frentzen was just plain lacklustre.
Matters came to a head before the German GP, when Frentzen was sacked after a row with team boss Eddie Jordan, and replaced temporarily by Zonta.
The Brazilian's chances of landing the seat full-time were hampered by an embarrassing Hockenheim outing for the whole team - in front of vociferous Frentzen fans as well - and, when the chance came to bring back former Jordan F3000 favourite Jean Alesi, Eddie wasted no time in installing the Frenchman alongside Trulli.
The team's fortunes took a brief rise, as Alesi held of Ralf Schumacher to claim sixth in Belgium, but, despite a fourth for Trulli in the USA - ironically pushing Alesi out of the top six after he was reinstated on appeal after disqualification - the season rather fizzled out. Only Alesi's last race ending in the wall with Kimi Raikkonen left its mark.
The Frenchman, hoped to retain his seat for 2002, as Trulli was Renault-bound, however the team eventually opted for Giancarlo Fisichella and Takuma Sato, leaving Alesi only one option - retirement.
The year though was pretty dismal, and on the whole it was a struggle. It took the outfit until the Austrian GP to score points and then things improved, although only marginally. Three consecutive fifth place finishes, at the A1 Ring, Monaco and Canada was as good as it got, and although they would get two more points finishes - a sixth in Hungary and a fifth in Japan - the EJ12 proved to be a difficult car, so much so that designer Eghbal Hamidy left the team even before the first GP and Henri Durand eventually took over, working alongside Gary Anderson, who returned in the October, prior to the 2002 season.
2001 British F3 Champion Sato also failed to impress, his early season form was far from great and although he improved, and finished the year on a high at Suzuka, he failed to really match his team-mate, Fisichella.
The team ended the season though sixth in the constructors', with nine points, beating the likes of Jaguar, Toyota and fellow Honda powered runners, BAR. It wasn't enough though to convince Honda, and the team switched to Ford-Cosworth engines for 2003.
On the driver front Fisichella stayed for the following season, the Italian partnered by reigning Formula Nippon champion, Ralph Firman, following the exit of Sato.
Early testing of the new EJ13 was mixed, and in many ways that is how you can sum up the team's year.
Brazil was undoubtedly the high point, when Fisichella took a fortuitous win, in the rain affected race at Interlagos, other than that though a further seventh place finish in America (again Fisichella) and an eighth in Spain (this time Firman) were the only points scoring efforts.
The team ended the year in the doldrums, ninth in the constructors' on 13 points - ahead of only Minardi. A legal dispute with Vodafone was also a rather embarrassing episode too, one that the outfit lost.
Jordan was the last to confirm their driver line-up for 2004, Nick Heidfeld the first to get the nod, with Giorgio Pantano taking the other seat, after protracted negotiations with Jos Verstappen fell through.
The new EJ14 was off the pace in winter testing following it's low key 'launch' at Silverstone, and early signs were less than good.
If Jordan thought 2003, was bad, then 2004 was even worse. Three points finishes was as good as it got, Nick Heidfeld taking seventh at Monaco, while Timo Glock, who replaced Pantano for Canada [and the final three grand prix], helped the team to their best finish of the season in Montreal, when he combined with Heidfeld to finish seventh and eighth.
Jordan only scored 5 points all year, and unsurprisingly finished ninth in the Constructors'.
For 2005, there were some big changes behind the scenes - with team boss, Eddie Jordan selling the outfit to Alex Shnaider's Midland Group, something finally confirmed at the end of January. Jordan also switched to Toyota engines following Ford's decision to sell Jaguar Racing and Cosworth - a deal concluded by EJ prior to his sell-out.
The driver line-up meanwhile was confirmed in February, with Tiago Monteiro and Narain Karthikeyan signing on for the 2005 season.
It was the last year in F1 for the Jordan name but in reality, it was already very much a Midland operation, not that it made much difference in terms of on track performance. The uncompetitive EJ14 was modified to comply to the new regulations - and to fit the Toyota engine and after that Monteiro and Karthikeyan had to made do as best they could.
Unsurprisingly, the Jordan name didn't go out on a high and the team only scored twelve points, although eleven were picked up at the USGP when only the three Bridgestone-shod teams took part. The team ended the season ninth in the constructors' - once again ahead of only Minardi. Furthermore, while it introduced a B-spec chassis, it was only seen late in the season and, in all honesty, didn't make that much difference.
The team was officially re-branded MF1 Racing ahead of 2006, with a new Russian nationality and change of image - little did it know, however, that the team would take on another form before the end of the season.
With the pledge of scoring regular points, MF1 went to the first race with drivers Monteiro and Christijan Albers, the Dutchman making the switch from the now defunct Minardi to replace Karthikeyan. However, high initial hopes gave way to disappointment, with the M16 proving not nearly as quick as early predictions would have led to believe.
Battling it out with Toro Rosso and Super Aguri at the lower end of the grid, MF1 proved consistent rather than quick and, despite some decent flashes of speed in qualifying, where it reached the second knockout stage more regularly towards the end of the season, progress was slow and, before long, it appeared Midland was growing disillusioned with its investment.
Coupled to reports that the company was in financial trouble, it became clear MF1 was heading for its second re-branding in little over eight months. All was confirmed at the Italian Grand Prix, when niche Dutch manufacturer Spyker assumed control of the team, in the process changing its nationality, livery - to a distinctively patriotic orange and silver - and name, to Spyker MF1.
While neither Monteiro nor Albers would get the team off the mark in 2006, with Ferrari customer engines and the coup of designer Mike Gascoyne on their books, hopes were high that it would be more competitive in 2007.
Albers remained for his third season in F1, but Monteiro was, surprisingly, omitted from the line-up, despite being tipped as likely to re-sign.
Instead, Albers was joined by promising German youngster Adrian Sutil, who had impressed the team on his occasional outings during Friday practice through 2006.
During '07 Sutil impressed and while he was somewhat erratic on occasion, he still shone, most noticeably during the rain-hit Saturday morning practice of the Monaco GP, when he topped the times. Adrian also scored the teams' one and only point at the Japanese GP, by which time Albers was long gone.
The Dutchman was dumped after the British GP, with Markus Winkelhock brought in for the European GP, before Sakon Yamamoto saw out the remainder of the year.
Although progress was made - and the new B-spec car, which was introduced at Monza, helped, the team went through yet another change, with Spyker Cars NV selling the operation on to Indian billionaire Vijay Mallya and Dutch businessman Michiel Mol.
Consequently, the team was re-named Force India F1 for 2008, but retained Sutil, pairing the German with F1 veteran Giancarlo Fisichella, who came full circle and returned to the outfit he once graced during its Jordan days. Toro Rosso refugee Vitantonio Liuzzi came on board as the official test and reserve driver, but the team was always going to be up against it with essentially a reworked version of its 2007 – and thus 2006 - challenger.
Left at the very back by Super Aguri’s mid-season exit, making it through to the second phase of qualifying was almost the height of the team’s ambition – something it managed to achieve before the end of the year – while points remained a pipe dream in all but the most extreme circumstances. It was sad, therefore, when Sutil was barged out of the Monaco GP by Kimi Raikkonen when appearing on course for fourth. The German was left to nurse a best finish of 13th, from Spa, while Fisi broke the top ten only once, in Spain, leaving the team scoreless.
For the 2009 campaign, hopes were high of forward progress, with the team switching to Mercedes engines and also entering into a deal with McLaren for a supply of gearboxes, hydraulic systems and KERS.
Sutil and Fisichella both remained in place and the German came close to scoring the first points for the team in China, where he spun off in wet conditions late on, and in Germany, where he qualified inside the top ten and could well have scored without needing to pit for a replacement nose.
It was therefore left to Fisichella to open Force India’s F1 account in dramatic fashion at Spa, where he placed his VJM02 on pole position and then clinched second in the race behind Kimi Raikkonen’s Ferrari. Sutil then scored a fine fourth place at Monza having qualified on the front row, and managed third on the grid in Brazil although he would fail to add to his tally.
Fisichella’s move to Ferrari after his Spa heroics have test driver Tonio Liuzzi the chance to move into a race seat for the final five races of 2009 – albeit without scoring – and the Italian was then confirmed as Sutil’s team-mate for 2010.
Having managed to break its duck the previous year, Force India became regular contenders for points with the VJM03, albeit without repeating the success enjoyed the previous season. Sutil would manage to score on nine occasions – with a best of fifth coming in Malaysia and Belgium – while Liuzzi brought his car home inside the top ten on five occasions, the Italian missing out on more points through a combination of bad luck and poor qualifying.
There was a first double points finish along the way in Monaco, but the loss of a number of key technical members as the year went on and failure to score in the final two races of the season meant Williams were able to pip Force India to sixth in the championship standings.
Although linked with moves elsewhere, Sutil stayed on for a fourth season in 2011 but there was no place in the line-up for Liuzzi, who was ousted in favour of test driver Paul di Resta.
Both drivers scored in the season opener in Australia, with di Resta also managing a tenth place finish in Malaysia to pick up points in his first two events in F1. The Scot then failed to score until Hungary in July, but that was only after strong performances in both Canada and at Silverstone went unrewarded. Sixth place in Singapore was the highlight for the former test driver and six top ten finishes in the final nine races ensured he ended the year as the best placed rookie in the standings.
Sutil meanwhile added a further eight points finishes to his tally as the season wore on, with sixth in Germany and the season finale in Brazil being his best of the campaign. Scoring in the final three races also helped the team to sixth in the standings, although there was some disappointment at falling just short of beating Renault to fifth.
With added investment from Sahara India Pariwar seeing the team branded as Sahara Force India, hopes were high of making forward progress in 2012 in the quest to move to the head of the midfield pack. Di Resta remained for another season, but had a new team-mate as Nico Hulkenberg followed his lead by moving up from test driver to fill the second seat.
It would turn out to be a season of mixed emotions as the pair managed to improve the team’s points tally by 40, but dropped a place in the constructors’ championship as the battle in the midfield increased.
While rivals like Sauber and Williams impressed early on in the season, the Silverstone-based squad started slowly and improved as the year went on – scoring the lion’s share of its points after the summer break.
On his return to a race seat after a year in his testing role, Hulkenberg started slowly but when he was fully up to speed, the German again showed why he is so highly rated – with strong results in Valencia, and at Spa before the final fly-away events. Five top eight finishes in the final six races included a stunning drive in Brazil, where he led in the early stages in wet conditions before a clash with Lewis Hamilton saw him pick up a penalty that dropped him down to fifth.
Di Resta by contrast saw his result tail off after impressive showings in italy – where he qualified fourth before a gearbox penalty – and in Singapore, where he qualified sixth and then matched his best F1 result in fourth. It meant the Scot ended the season behind Hulkenberg in the standings, although he stayed on to lead the team into another season.
The identity of his team-mate wasn’t confirmed until the final pre-season test of the year, when it was revealed that Sutil would make his return after a season on the sidelines – seeing off the challenge of test driver Jules Bianchi to earn a second chance after his previous indiscretions.