Force India chief operating officer Otmar Szafnauer believes his team’s 2018 car will need to be able to challenge for podiums if it is to retain fourth place in the constructors’ championship.
While last season was the first year since 2013 that Force India failed to score at least one podium, the team easily defended fourth place in the constructors’ standings as Williams faded in terms of competitiveness. However, with a number of big teams in the midfield making changes compared to recent seasons, Szafnauer predicts a big step forward to be required if Force India is to match its finishing position of the last two years.
“For us, it would be great if we could develop the car to such a point where we’ve got good potential for a few podiums,” Szafnauer told RACER. “And if we achieve that and come closer to third but maintain fourth, I think that would be an objective that would be a big success for Force India.
“With McLaren and their new engine partner in Renault making strides, and Renault themselves pouring even more resources in and working hard to catch up, as well as Williams with Paddy Lowe and their new head of aero [Dirk de Beer], having their first car, it will be difficult for us to beat all three of those teams.
“If we do then I think we’ve got a good shot at finishing fourth, and to beat them, I think our car needs to have podium potential. So that’s a good objective, and that’s what we will set out to do.”
Expected improvements from both McLaren and Renault could translate into new threats for Force India in 2018, but Szafnauer says he is equally wary of Williams.
“That is actually one of the threats to us, the fact that McLaren have made those changes including going to a Renault powertrain. I think the other threat is the fact that Renault themselves are not standing still, and have got 600-700 employees now. They’re a big team with a lot of resources, and the parent company themselves are putting in a lot of resource to make sure that the Formula 1 team is successful.
“Again, Williams have got great infrastructure, good people and this will be Paddy Lowe and their new head of aero’s first car. So that all could come good and also be a threat to us. The competition where we stand will be even more difficult, and it will be even more competitive this year.”