The Race that Was: Australia 2008
2007 was a challenging year for the Spyker team. Mid-season driver changes, limited car development and only one point on the board meant the team was languishing at the back of the grid, its future uncertain.
In October, the team from Silverstone was thrown a lifeline, as it was announced Vijay Mallya was buying it, and renaming the squad Force India for the following year.
Just under a month on from their final race in orange, the cars emerged on the first day of December testing in a handsome, if simple, crimson and white livery.
At the wheel was young driver Frank Montagny and the experienced Giancarlo Fisichella.
The VJM01, an evolution on the 2007 car, broke cover in pre-season testing in January, and this time Giancarlo was joined by the team's 2007 driver Adrian Sutil. Vitantonio Liuzzi also joined the team as a reserve driver.
Although a new aerodynamic package was in place, testing showed the team was still struggling for pace, two seconds behind the likes of Ferrari and McLaren. At least with an increased budget and the promise of more development, things were set to improve.
Come February things had changed. The car had a new look, sporting a more refined gold and white look with red flashes, and the drivers were finally in their team racesuits.
The team entered the 2008 season with realistic ambitions.With an exciting driver line-up that paired youth with experience, and new investment and partnerships in the team, sights were set on outperforming Super Aguri, with whom the team had toiled with in 2007.
Progress looked to have been made already by the time of the first race in Australia. Both Force Indias were outpacing the Super Aguris and even challenging the Toro Rossos in the three practice sessions at Albert Park.
Qualifying went as expected. Both drivers were out in Q1 but classified above the Super Aguris and Fisichella ahead of Toro Rosso’s Bourdais. Sutil hit trouble on his second flying run of the session though. An engine problem meant the team had to change it, and he was penalised with a pit-lane start.
Fisichella’s race was over at the first turn. A collision vaulted his car onto two wheels and into the gravel trap.
Sutil avoided the chaos and had managed to work his way up to 13th place, but it wouldn’t last long. A hydraulic issue struck, and he was left to hobble back to the pits and into retirement as well.
It wasn’t the result the team was after, but the drivers proved the increase in performance was there.
It was a shaky start, but a promising new era for the team from Silverstone was underway.