Last year's Japanese Grand Prix provided the first concrete evidence that Dr Vijay Mallya would become a Formula One team owner in 2009, and the renamed Force India returns to Fuji hoping that it can emulate predecessor Spyker.

Although the name change would not take effect until the start of the 2009 campaign, the handing over of power took another step forward this time last year with the completion of due diligence formalities with the Mallya/Michiel Mol partnership - just at the time that Spyker finally broke into the top eight courtesy of current FIF1 driver Adrian Sutil.

"It was amazing how something that other teams seem to take for granted - just one point - really lifted morale," team principal Colin Kolles reflected, "But Japan was also a special place for another reason as we were entering the final stages of due diligence with the Mol and Mallya partnership [which] secured the team for the long future. I have very good memories of this race.

"I don't think you can underestimate the value of having security. Everyone involved knows that you can talk long-term, rather than just in six months or even a year, and this has really helped us move forward. We can now try and put in place long-term partnerships and plans which are paying off.

"But we have progressed in so many different ways. Commercially, we have a real marketable product and are a viable sponsorship prospect in a huge market. The company is financially in safe waters.

"However, in terms of performance, although the package improved, we have not achieved our targets. But this makes us work even harder to achieve the targets in the near future. We still have some way to go and, all the same, we are working to the end of the season as there are still chances there - I don't think anyone would be satisfied if we didn't get any points on board. Obviously, we have to try the maximum to score points, [but] you won't find anyone giving up just yet."

After the joy of seeing Giancarlo Fisichella escape into the second phase of qualifying at the Italian Grand Prix, it was back to 'normality' for Force India in Singapore, and seeing both cars at the back of the grid was particularly galling for team owner Mallya, who was hoping for a better showing at a race with a large Indian audience. However, even after a trying weekend that saw both drivers hit the wall at some point, he refuses to be downhearted.

"I am a great optimist," he insisted, "In any situation, there are positives and, even though you cannot gloss over problems, you really need to build on the good parts and make sure that the negatives are not repeated. Yes, we were off the pace in some sessions. Yes, we didn't get two cars to the finish but, as a team, we functioned very well.

"Accidents can, and always will, happen, but getting Fisi's car out again and then getting him to the finish, having run in third place, was an achievement. It was a tough weekend for everyone, but we all pulled together. That's the sign of a good team."

Mallya has always maintained that, while he would have liked to have seen more definitive signs of progress at his team this year, Force India's future was always the focal point, and he dismisses the first anniversary of his takeover as anything special.

"There are always times for reflection - the day I first came to the factory, the first time I saw Force India colours on the car, the first time I stepped into the garage as a team owner....," he noted, "Although these milestones always give us a chance to look back and think, we have to look forwards rather than backwards. We have strong foundations, but we need to build on them now. We always said this would be a tough year, but we've got to deliver now.

"We're here, we're competing on a world class stage and we are holding our own - every Indian can be proud that we've done that. I think it's important for me to be there as a figurehead as my team find it motivating, but I don't want to be there looking over everyone's shoulders all the time. I have to leave them to do what they do best and take decisions when I need too. I'm in charge at the end of the day, but I don't need to make my presence felt at all times.

"I just expect the same things every time we go racing - reliability, dedication, enthusiasm and passion. I understand it's difficult, but F1 is so competitive now that you can't let your game slip for one second. Of course I'd like to see points and Q2, but let's be realistic....."

The man charged with overseeing the team's technical package also admits loftier ambitions may be unrealistic, but reckons that emulating Spyker and scoring a point in the final three races could be a possibility for Force India, even if there are no major developments planned for the races in Japan, China and Brazil.

"This time last year, with Spyker, we scored our first point and I think we still hope to do this before the end of the year as Force India," claimed chief technical officer Mike Gascoyne, "We would be very disappointed not to do that as we have been a much more competitive outfit this year. F1 is just very close now.

"The weather [in Japan] at this time of year can be very wet, as we saw last year, and this did play into our hands in 2007 when Adrian drove a great race in the conditions.

"We have strengthened the engineering side of the team and have invested in the facilities at the factory and at the wind tunnel so, although it's frustrating not to have had better results as a team, we are in a much stronger position than we were this time last year."


Join the conversation - Add your comment

Please login or register to add your comment