Otmar Szafnauer says Force India could compromise the start of its 2017 season – with F1 poised to be given a major technical overhaul – if this year’s performances are worth making the sacrifice.
Having secured a best-ever result of fifth in the 2015 Constructors’ championship, Force India seems to have extended the momentum given the strong form of its VJM09 – mainly an evolution of last year’s B-spec car – in pre-season testing.
Although the team’s budget has received a boost for 2016, Szafnauer explains that it cannot “just throw resources” at development and will need to decide when to shift focus towards 2017 and the expected changes.
“Usually if the regulations don’t change you get marginal, diminishing returns,” he told F1i. “We’re not quite there yet, we’re still finding performance in the car but I think we’re going to switch not based on not being able to find any more but we’re going to switch based on the fact that if we continue with ’16 we will jeopardise where we start ’17.
“We have to find that right balance. We haven’t quite decided yet when that's going to be. That decision will be made after we understand our relative performance after we put the upgrades on that we’ve just tested.”
“But there are a lot of factors too in how competitive you are including the maturity and the level of performance of your drivers, the pit crew, reliability, improvements throughout the year including power train – there’s a lot that goes in to it.
“So as the season unfolds we’ll know more and we’ll have more information to make good decisions. I anticipate we will push hard to come out ahead of that midfield pack.”
Behind Mercedes and Ferrari, Szafnauer expects Force India to fight with the likes of Williams, Red Bull, and Toro Rosso. Should his team get an early lead in the midfield, then it would be more willing to take risks and delay the switch over to next season to stay focused on 2016.