The 2012 Challengers: The Force India VJM05

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The 2012 Challengers: The Force India VJM05

Post by Ed » Fri Feb 03, 2012 10:49 pm

The Force India team became the 4th Formula One team to launch their 2012 challenger


Introducing the VJM05

The VJM05 is the second car from Sahara Force India to be created under the direction of Technical Director Andrew Green, who joined in June 2010.

For a fourth year the team is using a Mercedes engine and a gearbox supplied by McLaren Applied Technologies, while this will be the second season with the Mercedes KERS, which was used for the first time in 2011.

Like the other teams, Sahara Force India has had to deal with two major changes to the FIA Technical Regulations. The FIA has banned exhaust blowing of diffusers, so exhausts now have to be routed away from the floor. In addition, the front of the nose can only be 550mm high, which has led to a very different look for all 2012 cars.

The VJM05 was designed and built to a different schedule compared with previous years, as the FIA Sporting Regulations now mandate that all crash tests be passed before a car is allowed to test, rather than before the first race. This meant that key items had to be signed off and built earlier, leaving a margin should any changes be required. All the team’s crash tests were successfully passed in December.

In the winter of 2010-‘11 the team decided to make a major change in its design philosophy, and that change of direction cost some development time. However the decision to take a step back in order to take two steps forward paid off as the VJM04 became more competitive over the course of last season, and the team ultimately secured sixth place in the World Championship.

“This year we haven’t done that, so it’s been more of a traditional winter development programme,” says Chief Operating Officer, Otmar Szafnauer. “However, it’s been shortened, because we finished last season nearly in December!

“The new car has come together nicely. It’s all about how much we develop it under the new regulations versus what the others have done, which will be difficult to judge until the first race. But from our perspective we’ve made some gains over the winter. Our objective is to start our season strongly and continue our development.”

With the VJM04 having finished the season so well, the focus has been on following a proven path and clawing back downforce losses associated with the blown diffuser rule change.

“The approach is to use that foundation and carry on building on it,” says Andrew Green. “We have a lot more confidence in the aerodynamics we put on the car now, compared to previous years. I think that showed from the time we changed the car in Barcelona and for the rest of the season. We were putting updates on at almost every race and the performance was improving.

“We’re happy with the strategy we’ve got and we’re pushing the boundaries even further. So we’re going to use what we learned last year as the foundation. There’s been a bit of clawing back to do with the exhaust regulations and that’s been the main focus of attention over the winter.”

Summing up the approach to 2012, Green says: “I would say that the car looks a lot more refined than previous cars produced here. It does look a lot racier and a lot more purposeful. You can start to see the aerodynamic concepts coming through now. It looks quite a bit different to the previous years, which is good.

“And so far the performance in the tunnel has been encouraging. It’s just that unknown of where everyone else is – and we won’t know that until Melbourne.”

Otmar Szafnauer Q&A
Chief Operating Officer

What are your thoughts heading into the new season?
The car has come together nicely. It’s all about how much we have developed under the new regulations versus what the others have done, which will be difficult to judge until the first race. But from our perspective we’ve made some gains over the winter. Our objective is to start our season strongly, and continue our development.

Last winter there was a change of philosophy that the team knew would make for a difficult start to the season. Have things been more straightforward this year?
This year we haven’t done that, so it’s been more of a traditional winter development programme. However, it’s been shortened, because we finished last season nearly in December!

Do you anticipate some controversy in the coming weeks over how the exhaust rule has been interpreted by the teams?
It’s hard to know at this point. We’ve followed the letter of the law. I don’t know who is going to push the boundaries, but we will soon find out! The FIA have been pretty clear – they don’t want exhaust gases being used for aerodynamic effect. You can’t eliminate that, especially under acceleration, but it should not be a primary effect.

Are you pleased with the work that has been achieved over the winter?
Aerodynamically we’ve done a solid job, and I’m sure Mercedes will have done a good job over the winter, in light of the new rules. All-in-all, with our two good drivers, we should be competitive in the midfield.

Nico has been promoted to a race seat. What was it that impressed you last season?
We had three very good drivers to choose from and the decision wasn’t an easy one. We had to look at medium to longer term potential and we saw some good potential in Nico, based on what he delivered on Fridays, based on his attitude, based on his feedback, and based on his speed. With all that taken into consideration we saw big potential in Nico.

Do you expect to see an even stronger Paul in his second season?
If you look at drivers coming into F1, generally in their second year they take a relatively significant step, which we expect Paul to do as well. It’s not new to him anymore. In 2010 he saw a lot of the circuits on Fridays, but he’s actually raced on them now. He has significant experience now which will enable him to improve his overall performance.

Both drivers have done a lot of winning in other categories. How do you feel about them as a combination?
Especially with the teams we are competing against, I think we have a very strong line-up with the two of them.

The competition is tough this year, but how hard will it be to achieve your targets?
I think it’s going to be very difficult. But nevertheless, our aim is fifth place. I think Sauber started last season very competitively and towards the end they didn’t develop their blown diffuser, which hurt them. However it will help them for this year, because the developments that they were uncovering still apply. They have two fast drivers, a good powertrain, they are a team with a lot of experience, and they have a good infrastructure, so they are not going to be easy to beat. Lotus were a bit constrained with the blown floor concept they had, and this year they won’t have that, so they are going to be competitive. Williams have a new engine in Renault, they’ve got a new technical team, and they’ve got a lot of experience. Toro Rosso made some huge strides last year. They’ve got some new drivers, and while that is perhaps still an unknown, you usually make changes with the intention of improving! So it will be very competitive in the realm of the midfield that we are competing in.

On the other hand there is no reason why Sahara Force India cannot carry on from where it left off last year…
Exactly. We have continuity in our senior employees and management, we have continuity in our powertrain – Mercedes do a great job on the engine and KERS. We’ve got two good drivers again. We’re starting to understand the tyres a bit more. All things considered, it will be tough, but I think we will be competitive. Where will we finish? It’s difficult to predict. But our goal is fifth, and I think we will be competing for that.

Sahara came on board late last year. What impact will that have going forward?
It just gives us further financial stability, which is always good and welcome. It also means that our future planning for the medium term might see some significant changes, as we’ve got two shareholders who have funding capability for the team to grow. We’re going through that process now, and it could be that we will soon be announcing some infrastructure enhancements that will allow us to move past the midfield.

Sum up your expectations for 2012?
I think we’ve done a solid job over the winter, and we’ve complied with the FIA rules as I said. It all depends on what the others have done and what they were able to find from a development standpoint over the winter. It’s going to be difficult in the midfield, but our focus is on improving our position from last season. We’re going to work hard throughout the year to regularly qualify in Q3 and finish in the points. And to achieve fifth place, we’ll have to do that.

Andrew Green Q&A
Technical Director

Last winter there was a major change of philosophy and it paid off with a stronger second half of the season. What’s has been the plan with the VJM05?The approach is to use that foundation and carry on building on it. We have a lot more confidence in the aerodynamics we put on the car now, compared to previous years. I think that showed from the time we changed the car in Barcelona and for the rest of the season. We were putting updates on at almost every race and the performance was improving. We’re happy with the strategy we’ve got and we’re pushing the boundaries even further. So we’re going to use what we learned last year as the foundation. There’s been a bit of clawing back to do with the exhaust regulations and that’s been the main focus of attention over the winter.

How would you sum up the new car?
I would say that the car looks a lot more refined than previous cars produced here. It does look a lot racier and a lot more purposeful. You can start to see the aerodynamic concepts coming through now. It looks quite a bit different to the previous years, which is good. And so far the performance in the tunnel has been extremely encouraging. It’s just that unknown of where everyone else is – and we won’t know that until Melbourne.

What impact have rule changes had?
The nose height regulation has led to the biggest visual change in the car, and then there’s the exhaust regulation. The rest of it is very subtle.

Some teams spent more time than others pursuing the blown diffuser route. Will that make it easier for you to take a step back from it?
Our time was limited, as far as the blowing of the diffuser was concerned. We couldn’t get it to work at the end of 2010 and that’s when we had a big rethink last winter. So we only had a limited time to tune it and I know we never extracted the full potential. For the teams who were working on it a lot longer than us, it could be an even bigger hit.

What can you tell us about the latest McLaren gearbox?
It’s smaller and lighter. It’s a really neat and tidy package again, as we would expect from McLaren.

The Mercedes KERS was new to the team last year. Are you happy with how it worked out?
It was as close to a seamless integration as you could want. It’s a fantastic system, and we’re very happy with it. There are little detail changes, but essentially it’s the same package.

Last season the car was competitive on all types of circuits, whereas in the past Sahara Force India was usually stronger at the faster, low-drag venues. Will we see the same thing this year?
That philosophy still holds true. I think maybe we swung a little bit too far in the other direction last year. We’re aware that we weren’t that competitive at Monza, so we’ll make sure we’ll address that for 2012.

Obviously last year the team had to learn a lot about the Pirelli tyres. Has that fed back into this car?
We learned a huge amount about the tyres and everything we’ve learned has been incorporated into the design of the VJM05. We’ve given ourselves some manoeuvrability on suspension design and characteristics which will help us at different tracks that demand different things from the tyres. So we’re looking to exploit that.

In other words last year there were things that you wanted to adjust, but you were not able to?
Exactly, we had designed ourselves into a corner in a few areas. We recognised early on that we wanted to manoeuvre out of them, but we couldn’t! All those things were addressed with the 2012 car.

This time last year there was a lot of talk about the DRS. Any changes for this year?
There was a huge amount of rear wing development early in the season, although it tailed off towards the end. It shouldn’t be the big focus that it was in 2011. We’re carrying on the development from last year – it’s a reasonably competitive package. We will look to update it early on in the season, but to be honest it will only be marginal changes.

In general terms with relatively stable rules is it getting harder and harder to find those little improvements?
Yes, the gains that we find in the tunnel are getting smaller and smaller, and are getting harder and harder to find. And you have to think harder and harder to get those returns. We can see that in the tunnel – if you carry on the same route the gains get smaller, so you have to start thinking of other ways of generating the downforce. There are a couple of areas that we are exploring at the moment that look quite fruitful.

Often when the rules are stable the field gets closer together. Is that an extra motivation for you and the team?
Yes, it would obviously be good to be racing closer to the front. There was definitely a Premier League last year, and it will be good to be snapping at their heels! That’s certainly the plan.

The schedule was different this year in that the car passed its crash tests in December. Has that freed you up to focus on development?
As far as I am concerned, this car was designed more two or three months ago, and what I’m looking at now is all the development parts. We’re scheduling all the new parts that are going to come in for the last test or the first race, so they are the ones on which we can focus. The net result is that we will be adding performance on the car come Melbourne because of the shape we’re in now. We will have that capacity in February to really push through updates in a much shorter period of time, because everything else will have been sorted. That’s really what we’re gearing ourselves up for – the first race – and it will be a little bit different from the car that we are going to run at the first test.

Finally, how excited are you about the driver line-up?
I’m looking forward to seeing Nico in the car and it will be Paul’s second year, so I don’t think we could ask for a stronger line-up. It gives us an extra edge – they will extract a higher percentage of the car’s performance than other drivers, which is great for us. I’m looking forward to the racing now!

VJM05 Technical Specification

Chassis: Carbon fibre composite monocoque with Zylon legality side anti-intrusion panels.

Front suspension: Aluminium uprights with carbon fibre composite wishbones, trackrod and pushrod. Inboard chassis mounted torsion springs, dampers and anti-roll bar assembly.

Rear suspension: Aluminium uprights with carbon fibre composite wishbones, trackrod and pullrod. Inboard gearbox mounted torsion springs, dampers and anti-roll bar assembly.

Wheel base: 3500mm
Front track: 1480mm
Rear track: 1440mm
Overall height: 950mm
Overall length: 5100mm
Overall weight: 640kg (with driver, by regulations)
Wheels: BBS forged wheels to Sahara Force India specification
Engine supplier: Mercedes AMG High Performance Powertrains V8 2.4litre
KERS: Mercedes AMG High Performance Powertrains
Transmission: McLaren Racing 7-speed, semi-automatic, ‘e-shift’
Lubricants: Mobil 1 products
Spark plugs: NGK
Clutch: AP Racing carbon clutch
Tyres: Pirelli
Brake system: AP Racing
Brake material: Brembo
Dampers: Penske

The class of 2012

Sahara Force India has a new driver line-up in 2012 as Nico Hulkenberg moves up from his reserve driver role to join Paul Di Resta, who will be in his second year as a race driver for the team.

Both drivers graduated to race seats after a year of Friday practice running as the team’s reserve, demonstrating that the team consistently supports young talent.

Their CVs underline just what a talented pairing the team now has. Paul won the F3 Euro Series title in 2006, and was DTM champion in 2010. Nico secured the A1 GP crown for Germany in 2006/7, was F3 Euro Series champion in 2008, and took the GP2 title in 2009.

In effect they begin 2012 with similar levels of F1 experience. Both men have started 19 Grands Prix to date, with Nico having run a full season with Williams two years ago.

In the wings is talented Frenchman, Jules Bianchi, also an F3 Euro Series champion, who will be integrated in the team’s programme and carry out Friday practice running at selected races.

Paul Di Resta Q&A
Race Driver, Car number 11

Firstly, did you enjoy a relaxing winter and have a chance to recharge your batteries?
I stopped working just before Christmas and that was it until January 13th, so I had a chance to spend some quality time with family and friends, and switch off for a little bit. I pushed on with my training and I was in a good routine and really enjoying it. It was nice and quiet in Monaco and the weather was fantastic, so it encouraged me to get outside and get active.

You got a feel for the VJM05 when you had your seat fitting. What are your impressions?
It’s looking quite good and the seat fit went very smoothly. The small issues I had last year were obviously considered in the design, which is what happens in your second year as part of a team - that’s one of the things that becomes a bit easier. I wouldn’t say the cockpit was tight last year, but I just couldn’t get low enough in the car, where I wanted to be.

What is the team’s target with the new car?
The target is just to go forward really, from where we left off at the end of last year. We’ve got to start a bit stronger than we did last year – that will be key. We’ve also developed a lot of the things that we tried last year and now believe that it’s the way forward. I’m not going to say what it is, but you’ll see it as soon as the car hits the track!

Last year the team ensured that the car was competitive at all types of tracks, rather than just places like Spa and Monza. Will we see that again this year?
We actually struggled a bit in terms of straight-line speed compared to others. So there was definitely a change. If you look at Hungary, it was one of our best results: a very strong performance across the whole weekend. So it’s good to keep going down that route. You need downforce, but you need efficiency, and it’s a question of how finely you balance that.

How much stronger do you feel personally heading into the season, compared with this time last year?
A lot stronger. I’ve been training as hard as I ever have, really pushing on for the last few weeks. As I said, I’m getting myself into that routine and just pushing the body to another level. For some reason my life is just a lot more stable – it just lets you concentrate on the bits you need to as and when they come in. The other benefit is that I now have a year under my belt. Whether it’s making decisions on travel arrangements or just analysing your time, you can really see what you didn’t like last year and what affected you, and just put it right.

The Pirelli tyres were new for everyone last year. Did you feel comfortable with them?
It’s difficult to say because it was my first year, but it was not easy, because they were changing a lot and there was a big difference between them. At the same time everyone gets to run with the same tyres and it’s about making them work. It was all about doing it at the right point in the weekend, especially during qualifying.

You have a new team mate in Nico - are you looking forward to working with him?
Obviously Nico was already part of the team last year. I’ve known him for a long time and I’m sure we will work well together. At the same time you do have that bit of competitive nature, and you bounce off each other and push the team to take that little bit of an extra step.

It’s an unusual situation, because you’ve both done one season of racing, and one year of Friday FP1s – albeit not in the same order!
We’re on equal territory. He’s probably done a bit more mileage than me in an F1 car, and he knows all the tracks, so there’s not really any disadvantage for him. And he knows the team.

You often shared a car with Nico on Fridays last year. Did you learn from that whether you have similar styles, and perhaps would like the new car to develop in the same direction?
The testing priorities were always different, and even between FP1 and FP2 the car would change – they would generally try new things with Nico when he was in the car just to get a bit of an idea, even if it was about future races. So I don’t really know – I think that will develop over the winter.

The competition in the middle of the pack is very strong. Do you agree that it’s not going to be easy to repeat last year’s form?
True, we’ve got a job in hand to maintain sixth. At the end of last year we punched way higher than I think we should have, and credit to the team for their ambition. I think everybody is still on a high from that and hopefully that will push us to another level again. But it’s going to take a lot of dedication to achieve that. We have to start off where we finished last year and keep pushing in that direction.

Looking at the overall package can you see any reason why you can’t do that?
There’s definitely no reason why we can’t. We’ve had good stability and we have the same technical staff, and the same partners: Mercedes-Benz for engine and KERS, and McLaren for gearbox and hydraulics. So everything is very stable and has carried on over. It almost feels like there’s not been an end of the season and a beginning of the new one. Everybody’s in the same state of mind.

Nico Hulkenberg Q&A
Race Driver, Car Number 12

Did you have a chance to relax this winter and how have you been preparing for this season?
After Brazil I took some time out and just chilled a little bit and did some training. I went on a little holiday to New York after Christmas and since the beginning of January I’ve been pretty much flat out. It’s not like I’ve been sitting at home, there’s been plenty to do and think about!

What are your initial thoughts on the VJM05?
I think the car doesn’t look too different to last year, expect maybe at the front of the nose, where there is a bit of a change. Apart from that, there isn’t much obvious, although the exhaust position is different. Aero-wise, it’s in the details again. I saw the car in the wind tunnel and it looked good, but you never know where you are until you are out there and you compete against the others, so let’s wait and see.

All the teams have lost downforce with the exhaust rules. Are you confident that the team has
been able to claw enough back?
Everyone is positive. Losing the blown floor was a setback, but at the same time the aero guys and engineers are moving on and trying to develop other areas to try and gain what you lose. Nowadays you need a strong aero package, a good aerodynamic car, but also mechanically you cannot afford to have poor suspension. It all goes together as a package and you have to have harmony in the car.

How would you describe the team’s philosophy with the new car?
I think very clearly the philosophy is to build a competitive and very quick car! With 20 races this year you need a car which is very good on every circuit, not just high-speed tracks like Monza, or tight street circuits like Monaco. I think if you want to compete against the others, and it’s pretty tough in the midfield, you need to be competitive everywhere. We’re just trying to develop and make the car stronger in every aspect.

How hungry are you to get started after not racing last year?
Very! Preparations have been full-on with simulator sessions, the seat fitting, and my training regime has gone up a little bit in volume and intensity. So I’m getting myself back into shape again. It’s exciting times and I’m looking forward to it.

Will it take you a couple of weekends to get back into the rhythm of qualifying and racing?
It’s difficult to know. Obviously I went through that process in 2010, and I still have memories of it. However, it’s not a situation like the beginning of 2010 when I was a complete rookie and completely new to everything. I’ve gone through it before and I know what to expect and what is coming up. It’s not a bad situation, but not having been on the grid for a year means it might take some time and some adjustments before I’m fully up there and back in my race rhythm.

You learned about the Pirellis in your Friday testing last year, but you don’t know about how they develop over the weekend into qualifying and the race. Is that the major thing you have to learn?
Track evolution from P3 to qualifying, what you’ve got to do with your set-up to re-adjust it, how the soft tyres behave in the race – I only know about that from the Bridgestone days, and I didn’t really run a soft Pirelli compound last year in free practice. So there’s a lot to learn and there are only a few tests before Melbourne. We’ve got a lot on our schedule, but it’s a good challenge!

Apart from learning more about the tyres, what are your goals in testing?
I just have to get back in the groove, get some mileage, get the F1 feeling back, and just prepare. The important thing is to do a qualifying and race simulation as well, at the latest by the last Barcelona test. It’s what you would do usually, but maybe this time it’s a bit more for myself to prepare.

What are your thoughts on Paul? Obviously he’s going to be your main rival this year.
I know Paul very well from last year, and I saw what he could do. I think he did a very good and a competitive rookie season. Having a winter and then coming back for your second year, you’ve got to be stronger, it’s natural. You can have a good think about things. I think we both have a very competitive nature, and we both had some great success before F1. It’s going to be competitive, and at the same time what I could see from last year is that we work well together. It’s a healthy rivalry between us, we can push ourselves to the limit, and the team can be pushed to the limit as well, which is good.

Do you have similar driving styles and set-up preferences?
It’s difficult sometimes to make out the difference and you always think about your own set-up rather than your teammate’s. So I don’t know yet whether we have a similar driving style.

The team did a great job to finish sixth last year. How tough is it going to be to repeat that, given the strength of the middle of the field?
I think that’s the case every year, and if you look at how competitive it was in the midfield last year, there’s nothing new there. Obviously Williams wants to come back and push forward again – they want to make our life more difficult! We want to establish ourselves and maybe even gain one more place to be fifth in the constructors’, so it’s going to be interesting with Lotus as well.

Jules Bianchi Q&A
Reserve Driver

First of all, congratulations on becoming a member of the Sahara Force India family. How does it feel?
I feel excited because it’s a very great opportunity for me and I will do my best to try to help the team in every way that I can. It’s a good place to be because this team has shown in the past that they believe in giving young drivers a chance. It’s also a team that has made a lot of progress in the last three years to become quite competitive. So I’m really happy to be here and I want to thank everyone for the opportunity and trust they have shown in me.

You’ve done mileage in testing already, but will it feel different to be driving in official practice sessions during Grand Prix weekends?
It will be different, I’m sure, but until you’ve done it you don’t know how it will feel or if you will have more pressure, for example. That’s why it’s an important step for me because it’s a chance to learn in the proper racing environment, and that’s something you cannot get from a test session. What I can say is that I will be sensible in my approach and just try to do my job as well as I can for the team. Friday sessions are valuable track time so I know that there will be lots of jobs to be done and the team will want me to find the limit of the car quite quickly. That’s why I’m here and I’m ready for it.

Of course, it’s about more than just driving the car because you will be integrated with the team. That must be exciting for you…
Yes, I will be spending a lot of time with everyone in the team and especially the guys at Silverstone. It will be a different way to work compared to GP2 and I’m excited to be part of it. I cannot wait to come to the factory, meet the engineers and get started.

What are you hoping to learn in 2012 and what goals do you have in mind?
The goal is to work really hard with the team and to try to be ready for the next season. Ultimately I want to take the next step in my career, which is a race seat, so this brings me even closer to that and gives me a chance to learn quickly. I feel ready for Formula One so it’s down to me to show the team what I can do, continue making progress, and put myself in the best position to get a race seat in the future.


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Post by Thaddeus » Sat Feb 04, 2012 1:54 am

I reckon they'll get 5th. Di Resta and Hulkenberg are both talented, and whilst Raikonnen can be great he also is rather erratic, and Grosjean was somewhat unimpressive when he was last in F1.

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