Force India’s 2013 season was a strange one. It started promisingly with a string of double-points finishes before a disappointing mid-season slump. However, the results picked up again towards the end of the year.
The VJM06 was launched in early February, but with only one driver to lift the covers off the team’s new machine. Paul di Resta took the car for a shakedown shortly after it was unveiled, but his team-mate was nowhere to be seen.
Nico Hulkenberg moved to Sauber for the 2013 season and the team took its time deciding on his replacement. The battle for the second seat was eventually whittled down to reserve driver Jules Bianchi and Adrian Sutil.
The two drivers both completed test mileage in the car before Force India decided to re-sign Sutil, who had last driven for the team in 2011. The season kick-started in strong style at the Albert Park circuit with a seventh and eighth place finish, making it their best ever start to a campaign.
However the next round in Malaysia was, quite frankly, a disaster with both drivers retiring due to wheel nut failures. Things improved slightly in China with an eighth place finish for di Resta, but Sutil was unlucky after being hit by Esteban Gutierrez on lap four.
Bahrain was undoubtedly di Resta’s best performance of the year after a storming drive to fourth, narrowly missing out on his debut podium. He scored points in the next four races, with Sutil joining him in the top 10 in Monaco, where he finished fifth after some stunning overtakes, along with Canada and Great Britain.
Following the dramatic tyre failures at the Silverstone circuit, Pirelli took action and brought revised compounds for the second half of the season that were very similar in construction to the 2012-spec rubber. The changes helped the likes of Sauber and Red Bull, but Force India lost out.
The midfield team scored just three points in the following seven races – all thanks to Sutil – as they struggled on the changed compounds. Driver errors were made and their earlier advantage of making the tyres last was long gone.
Other teams may have complained more often, but Force India arguably suffered the most from the changes made by F1’s sole tyre supplier. The timing was terrible too, as the team had already moved focus to 2014.
Instead of looking at challenging McLaren for fifth in the constructors’ standings, they instead had to watch warily from the teams behind. Fortunately they shook off the mid-season drop in pace to end the year with a few good results, including sixth for di Resta in Abu Dhabi, which helped them finish ahead of rivals Sauber.
Overall, sixth in the standings was a good result for the Silverstone-based squad despite scoring fewer points in comparison to the previous year.
Next year they will be reunited with the highly-rated Nico Hulkenberg. Sergio Perez will partner the German to complete a very promising driver line-up.
For the sixth consecutive season they will be powered by Mercedes and the new regulation changes, including the move to V6 Turbo power-units, could help the team move further up the order.
Images courtesy of Octane Photographic