Force India has become the second F1 team to confirm that its 2012 car has passed the mandatory FIA crash tests that will, this year, allow it to take part in pre-season testing.
While crash testing has always been an important part of the build-up to a new campaign, the governing body has tweaked the rules for 2012, making passing the tests a requirement before a wheel can be turned on track. Caterham F1 was the first team to confirm that its 2012 challenger was fit for purpose [see story here
] back in December, but the majority of its rivals continue to work on their designs.
The CT-01 and Force India's VJM05 should now both make their official track debuts at Jerez on 7 February, and the latter's technical director, Andrew Green, admits that it has been a period of anxiety and anticipation leading up to the FIA inspection.
“There's always a buzz around when it's happening,” he told the team's official website, “I've been looking at the car in its model form for a while now but, for a lot of people, when it comes together will be the first time they've seen it. It's always an exciting time when the car fires up for the first time, and it's been born!
“It is a busy time for us, and there's a huge unknown as well. We don't know how well we've done over the winter compared to our competitors, and thus there's a bit of anxiety just waiting to see what everyone else comes up with."
With Force India finishing the 2011 campaign sixth in the constructors' standings, a consolidation of that position, if not an improvement, is the target for 2012, although Green admits that the continued development of the VJM04 took some of the focus off this year's machine.
“We started working on it back in June, and the first wind tunnel tests were around July, [although] we took it out of the tunnel for one week after August just to do an upgrade for VJM04,” Green revealed, “It was such a close 2011 season, fighting where we were fighting in those last few races, [and] we didn't know which way it was going to go. We weren't really anticipating such a strong response from Toro Rosso near the end of the season – they seemed to have a reasonable upgrade around Suzuka time, [and] it's quite unusual for a team to come up with such a huge change so late in the season.
"So the concentration was right until the last race in Brazil [and] you could say that, from that point on, it's been 100 per cent focus on the new car for us. We're on schedule, that's the good news! It's been a little bit tougher this year, having to homologate the chassis prior to testing, so there was a little bit of extra planning involved to get that sorted, [but] the chassis has been homologated since December.
“There were a lot of fingers crossed [during the crash tests]. You're hoping everything does what all the analysis says it should have done. It's always nice when you reel off the tests one-by-one without any dramas at all. It's a real credit to everybody. It was a different schedule, a different plan, compared to last year. Everything went to schedule, so we went into the holidays very relaxed that we'd got all that signed off. Everyone could go away and have a good break over the New Year knowing that we were ready to go.
“Most people managed to get a few days off over Christmas to recharge their batteries, [as] it was a long season, and it's a long season this year. The guys need time off, they need time with their families, but we try not to let the guys down the wind tunnel take much of a break! They keep working, as that's where the performance of the car comes from, so we're very conscious of not turning that tap off. We'll do what we can to give them a break at another point in the year...”