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Some of you may remember that at the start of the 2011 season I wrote a review of each team [excluding Lotus – now Caterham – Virgin – now Marussia – and HRT] looking back to 2003. This year, I wish to explore these same teams and their rivals as far back as 1995. Here I will also look at the seasons with the current points system in place, as well as the respective contemporary systems. I will also apply a system that takes into account 24 slots on the grid, standing thus:
100, 80, 70, 60, 52, 46, 40, 36, 32, 30, 28, 26, 24, 22, 20, 18, 16, 14, 12, 10, 8, 6, 4, 2.
Force India was once the most renamed team in F1 history, with only the current Mercedes outfit having had more than 4 names in their long history.
In 1991, Eddie Jordan was paid by Peter Sauber to give Mercedes’ GT driver Michael Schumacher a test at Silverstone. Famously, Eddie got on the radio to tell Schumacher to slow down as the team were worried he was going to crash the car. As it turned out, the young German was completely in control, and promptly qualified the Jordan 7th in the Belgian Grand Prix. Although the clutch failed on the first lap, Schumacher had caught the attention of Benetton who snapped him up for the following race, about which Jordan is still rather bitter.
With Schumacher at the sharp end of the pack winning his second consecutive title, and his last for Benetton, Jordan was lingering in the midfield in 1995. Scoring 21 points, the team beat Sauber, Footwork, Tyrrell, Minardi, Forti, Pacific and Simtek, leaving them as the 6th-placed team of the season. By today’s standards, Sauber took them down to 7th, where they stay under my system also. Compared to their one-off star driver, the team wasn’t looking too great.
They rose to 5th in 1996, the Ligier squad dropping to 6th ahead of Sauber, Tyrrell, Footwork, Minardi and the outgoing Forti, whose slot would be taken by Stewart in 1997. By both today’s system and my own, Jordan remained 5th. Their ascendance had begun, and they retained their 5th place into 1997, again holding it by all three systems.
1998 was something of a watershed year. Gary Anderson was able to put together a solid chassis for the new rules, while the engine was powerful enough to match the 1997-spec Renault engine in the former works cars of Benetton and Williams. There were 5 points between 3rd (Williams) and 5th (Benetton), with Jordan beating the latter by a single point. By today’s system Jordan falls back to 5th place with Benetton beating them by 22 points, and they fall even further back by mine.
Jordan’s lead driver of 1999, Heinz-Harald Frentzen, was only 22 points away from Hakkinen at the end of the season, helping Jordan to 3rd place ahead of Stewart and Williams. Although Williams jumps Stewart for 4th under both today’s points and my own, Jordan hold a very solid 3rd place.
Williams did clear Jordan in 2000, pushing the yellow cars down to 4th. The former Stewart outfit, now Jaguar, fell right off their tail and posed no threat all year. By today’s standards, Williams had exactly 2 wins over the Jordan pair, while Benetton also cleared the Irish team under my system, with Williams over 200 points ahead.
Sauber joined Ferrari, McLaren and Williams ahead of the Jordan cars in 2001, dropping them to 5th place. After their rise to 3rd, the fall of Jordan had begun. BAR forced them to 6th under today’s points, while compounding that overtake under mine.
Arrows, Toyota, Minardi, BAR and Jaguar were the 5 teams Jordan beat in the Ferrari-dominated 2002 season, where Jordan managed less than 10 points. Renault and Sauber this time joined the big 3 teams ahead of Jordan, who finished the year one place further down than 2001, in 6th. They stay 6th by today’s measure, and hold of BAR by the narrowest of margins under my system.
With the demise of Arrows in 2002, 2003 settled the order at the back of the pack for the rest of the existence of Jordan and Minardi. Jordan took 9th place with 13 points, while Minardi brought up the rear of the pack with no points. Most of Jordan’s score came from their fluke win in Brazil, although it took the FIA nearly a week to correctly award Fisichella that race. Under today’s points, Jordan scored 13 points besides that win, putting them 35 up on Minardi but still 9th. Oddly, the team was less than a win ahead of Minardi under my system, proving that the backmarkers have a much tighter fight under my system than under any other.
Jordan sat 4 points away from Toyota and 4 up on Minardi in 2004, taking their second consecutive 9th-place finish. They were 15 down on Toyota and only 10 up on Minardi by today’s format, while my system put them over 100 points up on the Italian team, and only 30 down on the Japanese powerhouse.
2005, under the ownership of Alex Schneider in their interim year before being renamed Midland, saw them scoring 11 points in the USA after the Michelin runners were forced to retire on safety grounds. Monteiro was overjoyed to be on the podium, but his celebrations were met with anger by the American fans. Minardi scored 7 points there and failed to score again, although Jordan did pull another point late in the year. Nonetheless, 9th place was all the team could achieve for the 3rd year in succession. Despite the unusual US Grand Prix, neither of the more rewarding systems gave them a better position.
Midland took over the team fully for 2006, although it was bought out by Dutch supercar manufacturer Spyker for the final 3 races. Super Aguri joined the grid as a Honda B-team, while Red Bull bought Minardi and renamed it Toro Rosso for the same purpose. They beat Super Aguri with a best finish of 9th, despite being disqualified from the German Grand Prix as their wings were flexing beyond what the FIA permitted. Toro Rosso beat them by a single point, however, taking 9th place from their rivals and dropping the team to 10th. They beat Super Aguri by 2 points under current points, although Toro Rosso beat them in turn by 8. Under my system Williams were the nearest team ahead of Spyker, but were still well out of reach of the orange cars.
2007 saw Spyker technically beat McLaren as the silver arrows were disqualified from the Constructors’ Championship, but ultimately they were the last placed team of the field after Super Aguri managed a brilliant run, taking 3 points in Canada alone. Under none of the three systems were Spyker close to taking 10th place back, although the FIA awarded it to them ahead of McLaren after the latter’s conviction for the Spygate scandal.
In 2008, Vijay Mallya took over the team, renaming it Force India. I have to admit, I didn’t think they would last more than a couple of seasons at the most, but I am happy to admit I was wrong. Although they and Super Aguri once again failed to score, the Japanese team were 11th once more, with Force India returning to the top 10 proper. They would have scored a point under today’s system, unlike their Honda-powered rivals, and would have beaten them by almost 300 points under my system, a rare margin between the two lowest teams. Of course, that is largely helped by the fact that Super Aguri folded after the first few races when a buyout fell through and Honda refused to keep paying for the team to flounder.
2009 saw Force India make the best of the new rules to try and claw their way into the midfield. They nearly won the Belgian Grand Prix, but for a Safety Car giving Raikkonen's Ferrari the chance to clear him using KERS. In spite of this, they beat Toro Rosso in the race for 9th place, returning the status quo to that of 2003-5. Their position remained the same under both today’s system and my own.
With the new points system coming into force in 2010, the midfield battle was already hotter than usual. Force India finished the year a single point shy of Williams, taking 7th ahead of Sauber, Toro Rosso, Team Lotus, HRT and Virgin. Oddly, there was over 100 points between Force India and Williams under my system, compounding the 7th-place finish for the Silverstone-based team.
2011 was a watershed year for Force India, as they took 6th place from a rather lacklustre Williams. They even took 5th under my system, as Lotus failed to stay ahead of them over the course of the year.
Unfortunately for Mallya, the team dropped to 7th behind Sauber in 2012, although they again gained a place under my system. For 2013, beating Sauber has to be the initial target. Beyond that, it remains to be seen what Mercedes and Lotus can bring to the table, although it seems highly likely that Red Bull, Ferrari and McLaren will be too far ahead for Force India to break into the top 3.