Force India showed up in winter testing with a VJM11 car that looked very similar to its predecessor. Underneath, it really is a new car, but the limited number of changes did show that Force India may no longer be the leader of the midfield.
However, it seems that this was a factor that the team considered beforehand, as it was clear last last season that the incorporation of the halo would have to be the first priority.
"We jumped many hurdles on the way, starting with the homologation test", said technical director Andy Green.
"The introduction of the halo meant it was quite a different process from previous years; it was a significant challenge but the team rose to it admirably. We passed the very demanding test at the first time of asking and had a fully-homologated chassis ready at the beginning of the new year, which was a fantastic achievement. I believe we were one of the first teams to do so.
"Looking at the VJM11, the DNA of the car is still very much that of last year’s car. We took the decision, quite a while ago, that the launch specification of the 2018 car would be based around our understanding of the 2017 car, but with all new structures required by the regulations in place.
"It is a starting point, a good reference from which to introduce changes quite quickly; it gives our aerodynamics department more time to develop a car for the first race in Australia, rather than having
to release parts early for testing."
Having this in mind, the team already tried to find the correct development direction by fitting items on its VJM10.
"We spent a lot of time last year, with the VJM10, learning and trying a lot of different ideas and concepts in the background. Especially when we could see we had some breathing space on the teams behind us, we used a lot of our Friday practice sessions to this effect – not going out to put performance on the car, but working on future learning. The fruits of this will be evident in the early part of the season, when the car will undergo some significant changes."
Just like several other teams, including McLaren, the team is not aiming for rapid aerodynamic improvements early on in the season, now that the technical platform and reliability has been validated in winter testing.
"I expect us to follow a development pattern similar to last year’s – lots of smaller updates almost every race, interspersed with some bigger ones. The changes for 2019 are currently pretty small, so we will want to develop this car until the end of the season.
"We hope to be able to carry over the philosophy of this car into next season so some stability in the regulations for a couple of years would be good – at least until the big tsunami of changes planned for 2021.”
The first official session of the 2018 F1 season will by FP1 ahead of the Australian Grand Prix, set for 23 March.