F1 2016 Team Preview: Force India

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Entering its ninth season in Formula 1, Force India acts as evidence that backmarkers needn’t be backmarkers forever. Vijay Mallya’s team has grown in strength over the years to become one of the ‘upper-midfield’ teams in F1, and enjoyed its best season in the series last year by finishing fifth in the constructors’ championship.

Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg have both proven themselves to be two of F1’s unsung heroes over the past few years, combining for one of the most balanced line-ups on the grid. Could they lead Force India to bigger and better things in 2016?

TEAM: Sahara Force India F1 Team
ENGINE: Mercedes
CAR: Force India VJM09

2015 STATS

Races: 19
Wins: 0
Podiums: 1
Pole Positions: 0
Fastest Laps: 0
Points: 136
Laps Led: 0
Drivers’ Championship Positions: 9th (Sergio Perez); 10th (Nico Hulkenberg)
Constructors’ Championship Position: 5th

2016 LINE-UP

11. Sergio Perez (MEX)
27. Nico Hulkenberg (GER)

2015 TEAM RECAP

Force India’s 2015 was a strange one. Although it failed to score any truly major results early on, it picked up points consistently while rivals Lotus, Toro Rosso, Sauber and McLaren all struggled. Despite debuting the 2015 car late and not introducing a B-spec until Silverstone due to financial issues, Force India showed enormous resolve to become a big threat towards the end of the season. Sergio Perez’s podium finish in Russia was just the third in the history of Force India, and arguably, the team ended the year third-fastest behind Mercedes and Ferrari. By far Force India’s best F1 season so far.

2016 OUTLOOK

Just as other teams may struggle to move any further up the grid in 2016 due to the stability of the technical regulations, Force India will most likely be targeting to finish in the top five once again. The new car looked quick in testing, and with the troubles of 2015 now a distant memory, this should be a less complicated year for the team. It will be interesting to see how Force India compares to the other major Mercedes customer team, Williams, and with Red Bull set to struggle early on, there is an opportunity for some big results in the first few races. A lofty target would be picking up where it left off in 2015 as the third-fastest team – but it’s by no means unimaginable.

Meyer Shank Racing wins Petit Le Mans to take final DPi championship in dramatic finale

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Meyer Shank Racing outdueled Wayne Taylor Racing to win the Petit Le Mans and clinch the championship in a thrilling final race for the DPi division.

Tom Blomqvist, who started from the pole position, drove the No. 60 Acura ARX-05 to a 4.369-second victory over Pipo Derani in the No. 31 Action Express Cadillac.

“That was incredible,” Blomqvist told NBC Sports’ Matt Yocum. “I’ve never dug so deep in my life. The adrenaline. I did that for the guys. I was so motivated to win this thing this weekend. But I’ve got to thank everyone on the whole team.”

With co-drivers Oliver Jarvis and Helio Castroneves, Blomqvist helped MSR bookend its season-opening victory in the Rolex 24 at Daytona by winning Saturday’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season finale at Michelin Road Atlanta.

In between those two victories, the No. 60 earned five runner-up finishes to stay in the thick of the championship hunt and trail WTR’s No. 10 Acura by 14 points entering Saturday’s race.

WTR’s Filipe Albuquerque had a lead of more than 10 seconds over Blomqvist with less than 50 minutes remaining in the 10-hour race.

But a Turn 1 crash between the Chip Ganassi Racing Cadillacs brought out a yellow that sent both Acuras into the pits from the top two positions.

Though he entered in second, Blomqvist barely beat Albuquerque out of the pits, and he held the lead for the final 45 minutes.

Blomqvist said he gained the lead because of a shorter fuel fill after he had worked on being efficient in the second-to-last stint.

“The team asked a big job of me with the fuel; I had a big fuel number to hit,” Blomqvist said. “We knew that was probably our only chance. The yellow came at the right time and obviously we had a bit less fuel to fill up, so I was able to jump him and then it was just a matter of going gung-ho and not leaving anything on the line. And obviously, the opposition had to try too hard to make it work. I’m so thankful.”

Albuquerque closed within a few car lengths of Blomqvist with 14 minutes remaining, but he damaged his suspension because of contact with a GT car in Turn 1.

It’s the first prototype championship for Meyer Shank Racing, which also won the 2021 Indy 500 with Castroneves.

“We’ve had in the last four years, three championships for Acura, the Indy 500 win and the Rolex 24, it doesn’t get any better,” team co-owner Mike Shank told NBC Sports’ Kevin Lee.

It’s the third consecutive runner-up finish in the points standings for Wayne Taylor Racing, which won the first Daytona Prototype international championship in 2017. The premier category will be rebranded as the Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) class with the LMDh cars that will establish a bridge to racing in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Kamui Kobayashi finished third in the No. 48 Cadillac of Action Express that also includes Jimmie Johnson and Mike Rockenfeller.

The podium showing marked Johnson’s last scheduled race in IMSA’s top prototype division. The seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion has raced in the No. 48 Ally Cadillac lineup as the Action Express entry has run the Endurance Cup races.

Johnson said a lack of inventory will preclude him having a 2023 ride in the top category. But he still is hopeful of racing the Garage 56 Next Gen Camaro in next year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans and possibly running in a lower class for the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

“I’d love to be at Le Mans next year,” Johnson told NBC Sports’ Dillon Welch after his final stint Saturday. “I’d love to be at the Rolex 24. The series is going through a shake-up with the reconfiguration of the rules and classes, so I don’t have anything locked down yet, but I’m so thankful for this experience with Action. The support Ally has given us, Mr. Hendrick, Chad Knaus, all of Hendrick Motorsports. It’s been a fun two years, and I certainly hope I’m on the grid again next year.”