Szafnauer: Force India needs to grow to win

Force India F1 VJM04 is prepared. Force India F1 Team Factory Tour, Silverstone, England, 15 July 2011.
Force India factory at Silverstone

Feb.3 (GMM) A top brass at Force India has acknowledged it will not challenge for the world championship until the team is bigger.

Otmar Szafnauer (USA) Force India F1 Chief Operating Officer and Dr. Vijay Mallya (IND) Force India F1 Team Owner. Formula One World Championship, Rd 10, German Grand Prix, Race, Nurburgring, Germany, Sunday 24 July 2011.
Otmar Szafnauer with Vijay Mallya

Otmar Szafnauer, who is the Silverstone based team’s chief operating officer, told Auto Motor und Sport that the former Jordan, Midland and Spyker team’s head-count is currently 310.

“Here at Silverstone we have 212, and there are 98 in our aero department in Brackley. 500 would be too many,” he told the magazine. “We don’t have room for that.

“What is ideal? If we have 330 people next season, fifth place (in the world championship) should be possible. Can we be world champion with that? Probably not. We’d need 450.”

The next step for Force India is the inauguration in February of its new driver simulator.

“We are growing cautiously. (This year) five to 10 per cent more people, but only in the departments where we can follow suit with the equipment. CFD for example,” continued Szafnauer. “In the wind tunnel, we are more limited.”

The issue is that Force India is effectively unchanged since the Jordan days, with departed team founder Eddie Jordan opting instead for the philosophy of minimising infrastructure and paying external suppliers.

Race bays  Force India Factory, Silverstone, England.  29 May 2008
View of the factory work area

“Even if we wanted to buy all the manufacturing machinery in the world tomorrow, we would have nowhere to put it,” explained Szafnauer. “We would need a new factory.

“We have autoclaves that are too small for a chassis or a floor. Strategically, it would be better to produce more parts ourselves because of the speed at which you can react.

“We felt that (last year) in the blown diffuser area as we had to wait for some parts, while we could have produced some of them ourselves overnight.”

Force India’s 2012 car, the Mercedes-powered VJM05 with a McLaren gearbox, will be launched at the chilly Silverstone circuit early on Friday morning.

“I’m not getting carried away,” race driver Paul di Resta told the Herald Scotland ahead of his second F1 season. “A podium will be a massive challenge. We are a midfield team and you have to be realistic. I’m not saying it can’t happen but it will take a lot for us to achieve that.”