In the past four races, Force India has lost their edge over Mclaren. Up until that point, the small Silverstone based squad was thoroughly trumping Mclaren at their own game. Now, however, that decisive advantage has diminished. What was once a solid lead over the world champion team is now a slight deficit, one that looks set to only increase over the rest of the season.
The perspective on their current championship positions make this season unique for both Force India and Mclaren. Mclaren is obviously disappointed in their performance this season. An overly-ambitious revolution, instead of a cautious but thoughtful evolution, of the team’s 2012 chassis has led to some major underachievement this year, and Mclaren has done all they can to rectify the situation. Updates can only go so far when the car starts at such a disadvantage to your rivals.
Force India, on the otherhand, has had a magnificent season. When Adrian Sutil led the Australian Grand Prix and kept pace with the leaders for much of the race, it looked like the slow starts to a season Force India normally experiences were things of the past. Team Principle Vijay Mallya has been very outspoken this season, at his pleasure that his team finally came out of the gates fighting. The seasons of 2011 and 2012 were seasons of late improvement, so a major goal for 2013 was to start the season strong. And strong they were.
The advantage finally peaked in Silverstone. Adrian Sutil looked set to finish a surprising fourth after the melee of the beginning of the race, but a bad strategy call during the final safety car period ended those hopes. After that race, Force India failed to score in Germany, Hungary and Italy, and scored just two points in Belgium. During this time, Mclaren had double point finishes in Germany and Hungary, and strong finishes from Jenson Button in Belgium and Italy.
Force India now sits over 20 points behind Mclaren in the standings with no hope of catching them, except for in Singapore.
The Singapore Grand Prix, and street circuits in general, has always suited Force India. Paul di Resta finished fourth there last season, albeit thanks to some retirements up front. However, the team’s underlying pace there is undeniable, as proven by Nico Hulkenberg‘s fastest lap in 2012.
If Force India has any chance of clawing back points on Mclaren this season, this is the place to start. Their best ever championship position depends on them doing so.