Force India 2017 Analysis: The toast of the midfield

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Despite being their first podium-less season in four years, the 2017 Formula 1 season somehow managed to be an even more impressive year for Force India, leaving no doubt as to their position as the toast of the midfield.

Season Summary

Already the undisputed leaders of the midfield after their P4 in 2016, Force India managed to be even more impressive in this year’s repeat effort. Where last season they started slowly and needed the boost of two P3s in Monaco and Baku to get to 173 points, this year the team was excellent from start to finish. Only failing to score points on a single occasion, the team managed to exceed last year’s haul by 14 points, despite a total lack of podiums.

Certainly, if F1 were to borrow the pound-for-pound ranking methodology from combat sports, it would be impossible to slot any other team number one. In further stretching their advantage over the rest of the midfield, Force India have shown the value of personnel in a sport dominated by the dollar, and both the leadership of COO Otmar Szafnauer and technical director Andrew Green, as well as the driving partnership of Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon, has to be commended. The main story of this season could easily have been their drivers’ ongoing dislike for one another, or the fact that their owner is literally a wanted criminal – instead it’s their achievements on-track, and that’s not an easy thing to do.

Heading into 2018, the expectation will be they once again lead the midfield, although realistically their budget could play a bigger factor, both in their attempts to gain ground on the big three and to hold off the chasing pack. Still, fourth is theirs to lose – underestimate them at your own peril.

Rating: 9.5/10

Driver Ratings

Sergio Perez

Despite being his only season at Force India without scoring a podium, 2017 was no less impressive for Perez. Picking up much where he left off in 2016, Perez added a further six races to a nine-race scoring streak he’d carried over from the previous season, and then ended this year with a further eight-straight points finishes – including gutting out a P10 in Malaysia despite battling a virus. Consistently extracting the maximum from the car, it was no surprise he kept alive his perfect record of out-scoring Force India teammates – although while he can claim victory over Esteban Ocon, the French newcomer undeniably got into his head, costing the team points on a few occasions.

Rating: 8.5/10

Esteban Ocon

Coming into the season already a highly-regarded prospect, Ocon ended it on the verge of stardom. Quickly at home in his new surroundings at Force India, the 21-year-old failed to score on only two occasions, showing the immense faith put in him by backers Mercedes wasn’t unfounded. In addition, he managed to overturn his qualifying head-to-head with a teammate few would’ve faulted him to losing to in his first year with the team, as after trailing 9-2 to Sergio Perez before the summer break, he managed to win the second-half battle 5-4. Assuming he continues to improve at a similar rate, and gets on top of the feud with Perez for which he shares some culpability, Ocon is set to become a very hot commodity indeed.

Rating: 9/10

The Stats

  • 2017 WCC Position: 5th – 187 points
  • 2016 WCC Position: 4th – 173 points
  • Best Finish: 4th (Sergio Perez, Spain)
  • Average Finish: 7.92
  • DNFs: 2
  • Q3 Appearances: 16

Teammate Head-to-Head:

Sergio Perez

 

Esteban Ocon

13

Qualifying

7

11

Race

6

1

DNFs

1

15

Q3 Appearances

13

-0.073s

Qualy Pace Difference

 

100

Points

87