Sahara Force India reveals new car for 2017 season
Sahara Force India launched its 2017 season today offering fans and media their first look at the team’s new car, the VJM10. Silverstone circuit was the venue as Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon pulled back the covers to reveal the team’s dynamic new look including an updated livery and expanded partner portfolio.
The VJM10’s new aerodynamic package is guaranteed to get heads turning, while the silver and orange livery retains the team’s traditional colors with a fresh twist. Branding from Johnnie Walker appears on the rear wing and top of chassis marking the start of a partnership with the whiskey brand. Telecommunications brands Claro, Telcel and Infinitum continue their partnerships for a fourth season, while NEC branding remains on the engine cover.
Motor oil brand, Quaker State, continues its relationship with the team, as does long-time partner, Kingfisher, with its logo positioned on the engine cover. The VJM10 headrests carry eye-catching Hype Energy branding, while the team's newest partner, FXTM, takes up a position on the rear of the sidepod. The team also welcomes eyewear brand, LDNR, with its logo on the front wing end plate.
Team Principal, Dr Vijay Mallya, was the first to praise the VJM10: “I can’t remember being more excited ahead of a new season. The VJM10 looks aggressive and purposeful, and is the result of a huge effort behind the scenes over the last twelve months. We have big hopes for this car, which looks stunning in its new livery.”
With a complete overhaul of technical regulations, the VJM10 represents a clean sheet of paper in terms of design. “This year the cars are completely new and nothing can be carried over from previous years,” explained Chief Operating Officer, Otmar Szafnauer. “Although we have completely new aerodynamics on the VJM10, it’s fair to say that our aero philosophy is very similar to 2015 and 2016.”
Technical Director, Andrew Green, explained how the team has relished the challenge presented by the new rules and expects huge scope for in-season development: “It’s definitely a big overhaul; one that requires a change in mentality. It took a bit of time to adjust at first, but we are there now and I am confident we know where to look and where the performance is coming from with this car. The development slope is incredibly steep and we are going to see significant updates to the cars at regular intervals, right from the start; it’s going to be big updates and I don’t think development will start to taper off any time soon.”
Vijay Mallya remained cautious on setting a target for the season, preferring to reserve judgment until the racing begins: “Simply repeating our performance level of 2016 will be a big task in itself. I don’t want to set goals or targets other than to say that we intend to maintain the momentum we have built up in recent years and carry it into the new season. There are too many unknowns to say more than this."
Q&A with Vijay Mallya
Vijay, 2017 is the tenth year of Sahara Force India competing in Formula One. That's quite a milestone…
“I'm very proud of the journey we have taken over the last ten seasons to become an established Formula One team racing at the sharp end of the grid. When I think back to 2008 and the task facing us, it's remarkable to see the progress we have made and the way the team has evolved. Everybody associated with this team deserves huge credit for the achievements of 2016 and I still regard our fourth place finish as one of my proudest moments.”
Can the team keep delivering at this level going forward?
“We don't underestimate the scale of the challenge ahead of us, especially with the sport undergoing a huge overhaul of the technical regulations. Simply repeating our performance level of 2016 will be a big task in itself. I don't want to set goals or targets other than to say that we intend to maintain the momentum we have built up in recent years and carry it into the new season. There are too many unknowns to say more than this.”
“I think it's important that Formula One stands out as the clear pinnacle of motorsport and there's no doubt this year's cars will look more aggressive. The drivers always want more speed and hopefully it will excite the fans. The learning curve will be very steep this year, too, so I think each weekend will have a bit more uncertainty, which is good for the show. I'm not convinced that the new cars will generate better wheel-to-wheel racing, but let's wait and see what happens.”
The team has a new driver this year with Esteban Ocon alongside Sergio – it's an interesting pairing…
“Our philosophy has always been to choose the quickest drivers available and I'm very happy to welcome Esteban to the team. Together with Sergio, I believe we have one of the most exciting line-ups on the grid. Esteban is young but we know he has the raw talent and potential to develop. As for Sergio, he showed last year that he is an exceptional racing driver. This is his fourth year with us and he has matured to become one of the most complete racers on the grid. He is our benchmark and provides valuable consistency as we enter the new season. Who better for Esteban to learn from?”
The car has more silver on it this year – tell us the thinking behind the new livery?
“We've kept the basic colour scheme that we've been running for the last couple of years, but we've just freshened up the design slightly. Everybody has been telling me how much they love the colours on our cars so there was no reason to make a radical change. This livery gives our cars a contemporary and premium feel, which works well considering the partners we have on the car.”
Q&A with Otmar Szafnauer
Chief Operating Officer
“All those variables have certainly kept us on our toes over the last few months, but overall I think we are in pretty good shape heading into the new season and the start of testing. 2017 represents a new era for the sport and it's going to be fascinating to see how things shake out in the early races.”
2016 was the most successful season in Sahara Force India's history - what is the secret to the team's success?
“It's hard to try and capture the route of our progress in a simple catchphrase. One of the reasons we have been able to improve year after year is down to the employees and the way we work together. We've tried to create a unique environment so that people enjoy their work, make a genuine contribution and are recognised for their efforts. We've also built a team of true racers. We are all extremely competitive and share a burning desire to do well. The unified team spirit and harmony of everybody pulling in the same direction, without internal politics, is a big contributing factor towards our success story.”
What approach have you taken to the new season to allow for such a big regulation change?
“I think the big difference has been how early we had to switch over all our resources to the design and development of the 2017 car – maybe three months earlier than we have done in previous years. That occurred pretty early in 2016 and from a resource deployment perspective it has been a totally different approach.”
What have been the main challenges over the winter?
“The main challenge has been getting all the parts manufactured on time to build the car. That's always the main task of the winter, but this year the cars are completely new and nothing can be carried over from previous years. This has put a bit more pressure on all areas of the factory because there's no margin for error or breathing space. Even if you're missing just one component it can delay the debut of the car.”
One variable that remains constant is the powertrain. It's now the ninth year for the team with Mercedes-Benz power…
“Mercedes continue to do a tremendous job and we enjoy working with them. They have led the way through the V6 era and, although the other manufacturers have closed the gap, I believe their 2017 powertrain will remain the class of the field.”
Have you been able to invest in the factory resources over the winter?
“The big change for 2017 was our ability to laminate the chassis tubs in-house rather than having to rely on outside suppliers. It's an important step forward and means we have complete control of both scheduling and quality. It saved us a significant amount of time and I'd go as far as saying that these are the best quality chassis we've ever produced. We've also expanded our machine shop capability, which gives us greater freedom to control the production of some of the mechanical components.”
Is the team still using the wind tunnel in Cologne?
“It remains an important part of our development strategy because it's still a step ahead of the facility we have in Brackley. However, we know that our competitors have even better tunnels so we can't be complacent. We need to keep working hard to improve the tool and the accuracy of the data we get from our experiments. We've made good progress on the aero side over the last few years and, although we will see completely new aerodynamics on the 2017 car, it's fair to say that our aero philosophy is very similar to 2015 and 2016.”
How has Esteban settled into the team?
“Esteban's arrival in the team has gone very smoothly. He's excited ahead of the season and has been working hard on the simulator to get up to speed. He's had a very positive impact on the team because we share the same attitude to racing. Esteban knows we have high expectations and we will strive to create a working environment that will allow him to flourish. If we want to build on the results of 2016, it's important to have two drivers performing at a high level and we need Esteban on the pace from the start of the season.”
Sergio is entering his fourth year with the team – what can he achieve in 2017?
“He's very comfortable in this environment and that shows in the results he has achieved recently. He's a more rounded driver compared to when he joined us in 2014. Back then, he would sometimes struggle in qualifying, but he's worked hard to turn qualifying into one of his strengths: he's on the pace straight away. Sergio has always been a tenacious racer and has the ability to look after the tyres. We are excited to see what he can deliver in this new era of Formula One.”
What are realistic objectives for this team in 2017?
“As a team we have some internal objectives, but it's very hard for me to verbalise those ambitions because it's impossible to know what our competitors could achieve given such a huge change of regulations. What I can say is that we have met our internal targets for the car – for example in terms of the aero numbers we set as the goal for the launch car. How those targets compare to our competitors is impossible to say until we hit the track.”
What can we expect from F1 in 2017?
“Whenever you mix up the rules it's bound to introduce some uncertainty. There's the opportunity for teams to achieve or underachieve and if that happens it will disrupt the status quo. Will the new rules create better racing? Only time will tell. The cars will be significantly faster – not down the straights, but through the corners – but the braking zones will be reduced and that won't necessarily have a positive impact on overtaking opportunities. I certainly like the aesthetics of the new cars because they remind me of the racing cars of old. I'm sure they will look spectacular on the track too.”
Q&A with Andrew Green
Andrew, the VJM10 is finally here and it looks fantastic. How did it come to life and was it a complete break from the past?
“The VJM10 is the natural product of the big regulation changes for 2017. We had substantial changes to the aerodynamics, to the chassis and to the tyres – combine those three together and you have a marked departure from previous years, with a lot of new ground to cover and a lot more work to do. There was very little to carry over from last year's very successful VJM09, which meant a lot more work from both a design and a production perspective.”
Did you enjoy the challenge of the new rules? Normally regulations are brought in to slow the cars down, not make them quicker…
“There is a lot more scope for aero development - that's something that opened up the playing field considerably. It's definitely gone against the grain of previous seasons but we are enjoying the opportunity it creates. To have all this extra freedom to look for performance is a bit of a culture shock, but it's a very exciting time for us. It makes it much more fun for everyone involved. Every time we develop a new car, especially under a new set of rules, is a challenge but it's what we do: we relish the challenge; we look forward to seeing everyone else's solutions and discovering where we sit in the pecking order. The design of a new car always brings problems that need solving, but finding solutions is what we do every day – it's what engineering is all about.”
Is this the biggest change in rules you have seen in your F1 career?
“It's definitely a big overhaul; one that requires a change in mentality. It took a bit of time to adjust at first, but we are there now and I am confident we know where to look and where the performance is coming from in the new car. The development slope is incredibly steep and we are going to see significant updates to the cars at regular intervals, right from the start; it's going to be big updates and I don't think development will start to taper off any time soon.”
Pirelli are bringing some new “fat” tyres - how do you expect them to affect the racing?
“The new tyres are not only bigger, but Pirelli is also trying new solutions. We have a lot of learning to do on this front when we get trackside: it's going to be a challenge, especially at a track like Barcelona in the winter, not exactly the ideal time and place to be tyre testing. The target from Pirelli was to have tyres with lower degradation, but as a team we do not really know what to expect until we get to the track. We have seen the available data, of course, but it's just theory – we are looking forward to running them for the first time and correlating our tyre models with real data. That's when the work really starts. The tyres are the same for everyone and it will be crucial to get a handle on them early: we have very capable tyre engineers within the team and we'll get on top of that as soon as we get the data.”
The VJM09 finished 2016 as one of the strongest cars of the season. What can we expect from its successor?
“That's the million dollar question! As far as we are concerned, we do not really know whether we have done a good job or not until the moment we get the car on track and compare the data we get on paper with what we get in real life. We know we have done the best job that we can, and we think we are heading in the right direction, but until we get to Melbourne and into qualifying we won't really know exactly where we stand. As always, there is a little bit of apprehension at this stage in the season – that fear of having missed anything obvious or the hope we have managed to exploit the majority of what we could to the best of our capabilities. I hope it's the latter! The car has run well in the simulator and we have no reason to doubt the data we get from the wind tunnel, which gave us very good correlation to the track over the last few years. If we can get the performance we see from the tunnel onto the track, we should be in reasonable shape and have a good car to start the season.”
Of course, we have a new face in the cockpit in the shape of Esteban Ocon. What do you think of the team's latest recruit?
“After three years of stability on the drivers' side, we have a new kid on the block, and we're very much looking forward to working with him. He's a huge talent, we knew that already from the tests he has done with us, and he's also a really nice guy, which always helps. We've had several sessions with him in the simulator already and it's all gone very well. It was important to have a successful seat fit: he's not the shortest driver in the world and it's always good to get a driver of that size comfortable in the car. He's a really good addition to the team.”
With just days to the first test and a month to the first practice session of the season, are you eager to go back to track or wishing for a few extra days of development?
“We just want to go racing again! When we got towards the end of last year we got a bit tired, as the season was running down and we were pushing really hard to get the fourth place we wanted. It was exhausting, but we did it, we achieved our goal and we could enjoy the Christmas break. Now, everyone is just champing at the bit, wanting to go racing again, which is great to see. We are a real racing team, full of pure racers – you can see that, we just want to get on. The new season is an opportunity for us – an opportunity to do something unexpected. We are optimistic about our chances and we are well aware that, on a season like this, you have to make hay early and take the opportunities that arise. Bring it on.
Q&A with Sergio Perez
It's almost three months since you were last in an F1 car – you must be ready to get back behind the wheel…
“I'm really excited and looking forward to seeing this year's cars. The new rules represent a massive change for everyone in the team and for me as a driver. After the long winter and preparation at the factory, you simply want to get out on track and experience your new car.”
How did you spend the off-season?
“It's been a mixture of relaxation and lots of training. It was nice to go home to Mexico and see my friends and family because it's not something I can do often during the racing season. Also, this year my training schedule has been much busier because I need to be ready for the massive physical challenge of the 2017 cars.
Have you done anything different this winter on the fitness front?
“I've not really changed that much, but just spent more time doing the same things. Normally I would spend the month before testing doing intensive training, but this year I've been working really hard for two and a half months. I've been training in the hot weather too.”
What will be the biggest change compared to last year?
“It's going to be the energy and force you feel through the corners. It's going to be much more physical with bigger lateral forces. Also, I expect less degradation with this year's tyres so the rhythm of the races is going to be faster with less drop-off. I really hope that these new regulations will test us as drivers and put us under pressure. Formula One needs to expose who are the best drivers over two hours and I think the new rules are taking us in this direction.”
How are you getting on with your new teammate Esteban?
“I don't know Esteban that well yet, but he seems very friendly. I've always got on well with my teammates and my relationship with Nico [Hulkenberg] was very open so I think it will be the same with Esteban. I hope we can push each other hard because it's important to have somebody next to you who can really challenge you. That's what the team needs too.”
This is your fourth season with Sahara Force India. You must know the team inside out by now…
“The time here has gone really quickly. We've had an incredible amount of success in the last three years and I want this fourth year to be even better. Knowing everybody makes a massive difference because you feel as though you are part of the family, which is especially important when you start working with a new set of regulations.”
What are your personal goals for the new season?
“My target is to improve on what we achieved last year, which will be a big challenge. I hope that we can be one of the surprises of the season and I even dream that we can achieve our first victory together. This is a pure racing team; everybody understands their role and we all work well together. That's why I believe we can keep delivering in 2017.”
Q&A with Esteban Ocon
Esteban, you're entering your first full season of Formula One – share your emotions with us…
“I'm very excited ahead of the season and the beginning of this new era of Formula One. The winter has gone massively quickly and the whole team has been working very hard to help me prepare for this new chapter. There is so much to take in and learn, and lots of new people to meet, but I'm feeling at home already. The main emotion is simply one of excitement and anticipation.”
What are your first impressions of working with this team? What makes Force India special?
“I would say two words: atmosphere and motivation – that's what stands out about this team. It really feels like a family and everybody is motivated to deliver the best possible car and great results. I'm really impressed by the feeling inside the factory.”
How steep will your learning curve be in 2017?
“You can always learn more. Even if you have started 100 races, you can still improve. I think the nine races I did last year have helped me to discover some of the main challenges you face as a Formula One driver. I've learned where you need to put your focus and energy. I don't feel like a rookie anymore and this team needs me to be on the pace straight away and getting strong results. I feel ready for this opportunity.”
What were the main jobs over the winter?
“The seat fit was the main priority and being comfortable in the car is very important because the new cars will be even more physical to drive compared to last year. I've done lots of simulator sessions, too, and spent time with my engineering team.”
Tell us how intense your fitness regime has been over the last few months…
“I've been taking my fitness very seriously because the cars are going to be so much quicker this year. Instead of a two-week training camp, I've already done two full months at altitude in the Pyrenees. The training has been very high intensity and I've focussed on gaining some weight to help my strength. I've also done visualisation and reaction work because quicker cars mean you need to make decisions faster.”
What can we expect from the 2017 cars in terms of their physicality?
“You will feel the extra force of the cars all over your body, not just in your neck. For example, the braking pressure to stop the car will be much higher so you need the strength in your legs. The g-force will increase everywhere – under braking and in corners – so it's going to be a more physical experience.”
What about your new teammate Sergio? How are you getting along together?
“I don't know him very well yet, but we spoke a few times towards the end of last year during the drivers' parades. We spoke about this team and why he wanted to stay here. He's a great guy and I look forward to learning from him because he is an excellent driver who has achieved some awesome things with this team.”
What are your goals for this season?
“I've got to aim to score points at every race. That's the level of this team and I will be disappointed if we don't start the season with some good results. I know it's not going to be easy and all the teams around us are going to be strong, but we've got to aim high. The first goal is to make the most of testing and develop the car in the best direction. After two weeks in Barcelona we will hopefully have a better idea of what to expect in Melbourne.”
10 years in Stats
Sergio Perez – Profile
During his three-year tenure at Sahara Force India, Sergio Perez has matured into one of the fastest drivers on the grid, surprising the world of Formula One with a string of giant-killing results that established him as a leading force in the sport. At 27 and in the wake of his most successful season in his career, he can match the hunger for more success with the experience of six seasons at the forefront of the sport.
Born in 1990 in Mexico, Sergio comes from a motorsport family: having raced cars himself, his father Antonio was active in driver management. In this environment, it was natural for young Sergio to start his career in karting at the age of six, winning junior categories and quickly progressing to shifter karts.
A move to single-seaters at the age of 14 and the start of a long-standing partnership with Escuderia Telmex saw him take part in the Skip Barber National Championship in the United States; the following year, in 2005, Sergio moved to Europe to compete in Formula BMW.
After two years in this category, including a two-race stint in A1GP for Team Mexico, Sergio graduated to British Formula Three, dominating the National Class in 2007 and claiming four wins on his way to fourth in the International Class in 2008. A first appearance in the GP2 Asia Series saw him complete a lights-to-flag win in Bahrain and earn a call-up to GP2.
In his second year in the Formula One feeder series, Sergio won races in prestigious venues such as Monaco, Silverstone, Hockenheim, Spa-Francorchamps and Abu Dhabi to mount a title challenge and finish runner-up to Pastor Maldonado. His performance earned him promotion to Formula One with Sauber.
In his first season in the pinnacle of motorsport, in 2011, five finishes in the points helped cement his position in Formula One. Confirmed at Sauber for 2012, he claimed three podiums, including two second places, on his way to tenth in the Drivers' Championship (66 points). Sergio demonstrated an incredible ability to extract the best out of the car in changing weather conditions, pushing eventual winner Fernando Alonso closely in Malaysia and performing incredible comebacks in Canada and Italy.
A move to McLaren for 2013, replacing Lewis Hamilton alongside former World Champion Jenson Button, gave Sergio vital experience of the workings of a top team: 11 points finishes, including four consecutive ones in the final four races in the season, set him up as a consistent driver, earning him a place in the Sahara Force India Formula One team line-up for 2014.
Checo's life at Sahara Force India started in the best possible way, with a podium in only his third race with the team. Some memorable performances in Canada, Austria and Singapore among others, saw the Mexican claim 12 points finishes on his way to tenth in the championship.
2015 turned out to be an even better season for the young driver from Guadalajara: an impressive string of points finishes in the second part of the season, crowned with a podium performance at the Russian Grand Prix, saw Checo clinch a career-best ninth place in the standings (78 points) while propelling the team to fifth in the constructors' championship. It was a memorable year for Checo, who also experienced the emotion of taking part in his first home Grand Prix in Mexico.
2016 turned out to be an even more spectacular season for Sergio. An incredible podium under the rain in Monaco heralded the start of a strong run of form destined to last the whole season; a further visit to the rostrum in Azerbaijan and a string of ten consecutive points finishes saw the Mexican break through the 100-points barrier for the first time in his career (and in the history of the team) and clinch seventh place in the drivers' standings, a lifetime best. It was a just reward for the talented Checo, who was confirmed for the 2017 season, alongside a new team-mate, to continue pushing the team to new heights.
Sergio Perez CV
Date of birth: 26 January 1990 (27)
Born: Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico
Lives: Neuchâtel, Switzerland
Marital Status: Single
Esteban Ocon – Profile
Few talents can be held responsible for the emotions and the expectations that Esteban Ocon elicits. The young Frenchman's Formula One appearances may be numbering in the single digits, but there is little doubt over the skills of the latest Force India recruit.
Having started karting at the age of four, Esteban claimed the first major piece of silverware in 2007 – the French Minime Championship. The winning streak continued in 2008, as the young Norman won the French Cadet Championship, the final accolade before making the jump to international racing. A French KF3 title and second place in the WSK Euro Series followed, marking the end of a successful karting career for him.
The switch to single-seaters saw Esteban balance Eurocup and Alps Formula Renault 2.0 campaigns in 2012, claiming podiums in both, before a switch to ART Junior Team for 2013 resulted in third place in the Eurocup standings.
Following a first appearance in the famous Macau Grand Prix, the Frenchman made the jump to Formula 3 in 2014. Racing for Prema Powerteam, the season proved a huge success, Ocon winning the title with a round to spare after leading the standings for the entire campaign. Signed up to the Mercedes AMG F1 junior programme, the year saw Esteban also get his first taste of Formula One, taking part in Free Practice with Lotus at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Continuing his lightning-quick progression in the sport, 2015 brought a promotion to the GP3 Series with ART Grand Prix: against a strong field, Esteban claimed one win on the way to the championship. The talented youngster was also introduced to Sahara Force India for the first time, driving in the Barcelona in-season test and impressing with his professional attitude and natural speed.
The 2016 season initially seemed to be one of transition for Esteban, who switched to the challenge of DTM as part of his Mercedes affiliation. However, halfway through the season, the big break came in the form of a call-up to Manor to compete in the remainder of the Formula One season. Despite an uncompetitive car he had never tried before, the Frenchman showed moments of class, nearly scoring his debut points in the rain-affected Brazilian Grand Prix.
The move to Sahara Force India as part of a multi-year contract marks the next step in Esteban Ocon's career. Stepping into a competitive team will allow him to display his innate class, contributing to the growth of the team and allowing him to fight at the sharp end of the field.
Esteban Ocon CV
Date of birth: 17 September 1996 (20)
Born: Évreux, France
Weight: 68 kg
Height: 185 cm
Marital Status: Single
Alfonso Celis – Profile
Alfonso Celis Enecoiz Jr. is the latest product of Mexico's rich vein of talented drivers that produced Sahara Force India's star, the country's current Formula One hero Checo Perez. Born in Mexico City in 1996, the young Alfonso took part in kart racing in his home country before making his open-wheel debut in the regional LATAM Challenge Series in 2011. The promise shown in this championship, paired with the storming success in the Campeonato Turismos de Velocidad, a touring series, prompted a move to Europe for 2012, a year in which he competed in the Formula BMW Talent Cup. In just five races, he was able to finish eighth in the finale at Motorsport Arena Oschersleben, clinching a podium, his second of the series, in the third race of the weekend.
Alfonso was signed by Fortec Motorsport for a 2013 programme which included full participation in the Formula Renault 2.0 NEC season, as well as entries in the British and European Formula 3 championships. The young Mexican acquitted himself well, with eleven points-scoring finishes, placing him 14th in the standings with the added bonus of a podium in the season finale in Zandvoort. The year also featured a good showing in the winter Panam GP Series, in which Alfonso finished third behind Ferrari Academy driver Antonio Fuoco, claiming two podiums in the process.
2014 saw Alfonso graduate to the global GP3 Series, joining Status Grand Prix. It was to be a transition season for the Mexican, who learnt a lot during the year and steadily improved as the season progressed, finally scoring his first points with a fine seventh place in the Sprint race in Russia. A move to ART Grand Prix in 2015 brought immediate results, with points in the first race in Barcelona and the highlight of a podium in Belgium on the way to 12th in the final standings. He also raced in Formula Renault 3.5 with AVF picking up a season-best fourth place finish at the Nurburgring event.
The big break for the Mexican driver came at the post-season Formula One Pirelli tyre test in Abu Dhabi, where Alfonso did a fine job in his first appearance for Sahara Force India. Getting to know the VJM08 in the car's final official appearance, the man from Mexico City completed 65 laps without issues, showing his prowess with the powerful machinery at his disposal. The successful test led to a position as Development Driver with Sahara Force India for 2016, a season in which the young Mexican alternated work on the team simulator and participation in six practice sessions with a full campaign in the Formula V8 3.5 Series – with the highlight of a podium at Spa.
As the season progressed, Alfonso showed marked improvement as he got to know the team's VJM09, impressing in Monza where he set the 12th fastest time in Free Practice 1. The good results obtained in the last season mean that, in 2017, Alfonso will renew his association with the team, continuing on the development path set together with Sahara Force India as Test driver.
Alfonso Celis Jr. CV
Date of birth: 18 September 1996 (20)
Born: Mexico City, DF, Mexico
Lives: Barcelona, Spain
Marital Status: Single
Team Principal and Managing Director Dr Vijay Mallya
Chairman & Co-Owner Subrata Roy Sahara
Shareholder The Mol Family
Deputy Team Principal Robert Fernley
Chief Operating Officer Otmar Szafnauer
Technical Director Andrew Green
Sporting Director Andy Stevenson
Production Director Bob Halliwell
Aerodynamics Director Simon Phillips
Chief Designer Akio Haga
Chief Designer Ian Hall
Chief Engineer Tom McCullough
Race Team Operations Manager Mark Gray
Race Engineer (Car #11) Tim Wright
Race Engineer (Car # 31) Brad Joyce
Commercial Director Stephen Curnow
Head of Communications Will Hings
Sahara Force India, as the team is now known, was born in late 2007 after Dr Vijay Mallya joined forces with the Mol family, co-owners of the then Spyker team.
The team's debut in 2008 saw the new operation finish tenth in the championship, creating the basis for a rapid growth over the following seasons. A switch to Mercedes engines in 2009 helped the team clinch its first pole position, points and podium as Giancarlo Fisichella finished second in the Belgian Grand Prix.
The team's progression was emphasised by seventh place in the constructors' championship in 2010, a result improved in 2011 as the new driver pairing of Paul Di Resta and Adrian Sutil lifted the outfit to sixth.
2012 saw the team build on these strong foundations: points were scored in 80% of the races in a season that ended on a high note, with Nico Hülkenberg leading 30 laps in the Brazilian Grand Prix. The team's point total of 109 set a new record for Sahara Force India.
A wisely-planned pre-season testing period heralded a brilliant start of 2013. A series of double points finishes included a fourth place for Di Resta in Bahrain and fifth place for Sutil on the streets of Monaco. A strong end of the season resulted in the team cementing its sixth position in the standings.
The 2014 season brought many changes. The new pairing of Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez, together with the competitiveness of the VJM07, brought immediate results with Perez ending the team's five-year wait for a podium in his only third race with Sahara Force India. An impressive 10-race run of consecutive points placements ended mid-season, but the year progressed strongly and resulted in 10 double-point finishes: the team shattered the previous points record, amassing an incredible 155 points.
Having retained the driver line-up, 2015 held much promise for the team - and the season did not disappoint: a strong run of form with the b-spec VJM08, debuted at the home Grand Prix in Silverstone, brought one podium, with Perez in Russia, and a string of results that propelled the team to its first ever top five placement in the championship.
Success breeds success; but it also generates expectations and the team started the 2016 season with the pressure to build on its previous results. A series of unlucky circumstances saw the team on the back foot in the first few races, but a podium by Perez in Monaco and a repeat performance in Baku turned the season around for the team. Big results kept coming, with a 4-5 finish in Spa launching Force India to fourth place, where the team would eventually finish the season. The best result in the outfit's history, compounded with Perez crossing the 100-points barrier, a first for a driver of the team, set a new high point in the rise and rise of Sahara Force India.
With the new regulations in force for 2017 providing a potential shake-up in the constructors' order, Sahara Force India is ready to rise up to the challenge. The arrival of young superstar Esteban Ocon, to race alongside Perez in one of Formula One's most exciting line-ups, the renewed hunger for success and the opportunities brought by the new season set the scene for what should be an exciting championship
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