While Adrian Sutil might have dismissed suggestions that Force India is in talks with Mercedes-Benz about a technical alliance next season, marketing man Ian Phillips has admitted that the team has to explore all avenues as Formula One embarks on a new technological era.
The 2009 campaign ushers in a raft of rule changes, among them the opportunity to incorporate KERS systems on the next generation of car. Although next season's regulations do not insist on the systems being fitted, and not every constructor is up to speed with their development, Phillips admits that Force India, as one of the grid's smaller teams, really has no option to but to cast around and see which package suits it best.
The team's case is heightened by the fact that current engine supplier Ferrari appears to be lagging behind many of its rivals when it comes to implementing a KERS system and may not be in a position to introduce it until midway through the year, while others - including Mercedes-supported McLaren - have already had their systems out on track.
"There is a lot of tittle-tattle at this time of year," Phillips admitted during his stint on the BBC's Radio Five Live
broadcast from Fuji, "However, although the KERS system will be allowed in 2009, even if it's not compulsory, there are areas of the packaging of the car that have to be finalised.
"Ferrari don't want us to develop our own system [to go with their engines], but are being a bit non-committal about whether they are even going to start the season with KERS. Force India has to build a new car for the new regulations, and can't afford to build a non-KERS car and then have whoever turn around and say that KERS will be available from July or whatever.
"Ferrari is unable to say what it is going to do, or whether it won't be running KERS until the third or fourth race of the year, so it is only natural that we have to go and ask everyone else about what they are up to.... Nobody really knows what is happening at this stage, but three or four teams have embryonic systems, and the end of October is really the time when we have to put a line under our chassis design."
Ironically, Phillips went on to say that he had been told that running without KERS in 2009 might give Force India the best chance of success, but admits that the team cannot afford to shun the technology.
"One team's technical leader told me that a non-KERS car would probably win the championship next year," he revealed, "and there is an argument that, without KERS, you could design the ultimate in wheelbase, chassis, weight distribution, etc. You could probably qualify brilliantly with it too, but the KERS cars, if they used their extra horsepower off the line, would overcome that..."