Milan: Force India unveiled their new car on Tuesday, saying greater stability than other Formula One teams would boost their chances this season.
Vijay Mallya’s team finished ninth out of 10 last season but improved significantly in the closing stages and are bullish for 2010 despite missing a deadline to file their annual accounts.
It has been a smooth transition for the VJM03 from last year’s car which again uses a Mercedes engine and McLaren gearbox, whereas the start of last season was hit by a late switch of suppliers.
“It’s been a lot smoother,” design director Mark Smith said during the online launch.
“From the very beginning we designed the VJM03 in full knowledge of the engine and gearbox that we would be using for 2010, which gave us a significant advantage by comparison with respect to the same point in design time for VJM02.”
The back of the car has changed most significantly given the team has had more time to develop a double diffuser after having to rush the introduction of last year’s version when authorities decided early in the season that the device was legal.
A ban on refuelling during the race has led to bigger fuel tanks and increases the VJM03’s length, while the team says it will develop an adjustable front flap this year.
The car, which will be tested for the first time in Spain’s Jerez in the next four days having missed the first test in Valencia last week, has a carbon fibre composite monocoque Chassis with Zylon legality side anti-intrusion panels.
Giancarlo Fisichella finished second at last year’s Belgian Grand Prix to score their first points before joining Ferrari.
He was replaced by plucky compatriot Vitantonio Liuzzi, who will first test the car on Wednesday and will drive for the team again this season alongside German Adrian Sutil.
Amid a raft of driver changes in F1, having the same two drivers as the end of last season and no longer being the smallest team on the grid given this year’s new entrants also bodes well, team members said.
“I am really confident in the work they have done over the winter and we’ve built a car that can regularly be in the points,” Liuzzi said, adding that budget restrictions would also help Force India against the big guns.
“Yes, this is an advantage for us as we know how to operate on smaller levels that the bigger teams will have to get used to, while the new teams have a tough job to do. I think it will be a good season for us.”
Sutil expects to add to the five points he gained last year.
“Right now we’re looking really good, we’ve sorted out all the issues and this winter has been a consistent working situation so it’s a big advantage,” he said.
“It’s nice to be one of the few teams who have stability now and can just focus on the racing.”
Force India rejected speculation last Friday that they were in danger of being forced out of business because they had not filed their 2008 accounts by an 31 October deadline.
“Force India’s participation within the F1 championship has not, and will not, be in jeopardy,” Indian tycoon Mallya said, adding that Force India had been granted an extension until 25 February to submit accounts.
The first race of the 2010 season is in Bahrain on 14 March.