The Silverstone-based team may have made a name for themselves last season, scoring their first pole position, points and podium, but they are hoping their new Mercedes-engined car will power them to even greater things in 2010.
“Our goal is to continue on the same path of performance improvement that we had at the end of 2009,” said Force Indias chairman and team principal Dr Vijay Mallya. “I don't think I am being over-proud when I say 2009 was an exceptional year for us. The bare statistics say it all: one podium, one pole position, one fastest lap, a further five top 10 starts and 13 points.
“We've learnt from our experiences and we've come out a better team: resilient, resourceful and now resurgent. I hope 2010 will see this great progress carrying forward. We've got one podium so far but I would hope that, this time next year, I'm talking about more points and more podiums. I'm confident we can get this, why not aim high?”
The VJM03 has been designed in-house at the team's UK facility by a unit led by design director Mark Smith. Although very much an evolution of its predecessor, the new car incorporates the 2010 rule changes, including the switch to narrower front tyres and the need for a much larger fuel tank as a result of the refuelling ban.
“The VJM03 is definitely an evolution of the VJM02 in terms of the design philosophies we have developed at Force India over the last year,” explained Smith. “We are very happy with the direction, therefore we have opted to evolve the car rather than significantly revise.
"It's a natural progression in areas which seemed to have strong trends at the end of 2009, and in other areas it's quite different. The back of the car is the area that has evolved most as everyone has had a year of experience with the double diffusers so we've all gone into 2010 much wiser to what we can do.
“Obviously one of the major aspects we have had to contend with are regulation changes which have had a considerable impact on some aspects of the design of the car. The removal of refuelling from races increases the amount of fuel needed to be stored in the cars - almost twice the amount we ran in 2009. There is a compromise now: either make the car much longer or wider, or, as we have done, a combination of both. This of course has influenced the mechanical design solutions and also the aerodynamics, specifically with respects to the diffuser and bodywork.”
Both Sutil and Liuzzi are thrilled with their new car and spoke of their hopes for the season ahead: “2010 is a really important season and we are very optimistic about going well,” said Sutil. “I think this year it's important to be consistent from the first race. I'd like to be in the midfield and be competitive from Bahrain.
"It's the first time we have been completely on schedule so I feel this will be the first season when I can show from the beginning to the end what is possible with the car and what I can do. Of course we will have updates and performance packages from this point on but I hope we will be strong from the first practice session rather than compromising at the start.”
Liuzzi, who was promoted from his reserve role to a race seat in September 2009 after Giancarlo Fisichella moved to Ferrari to replace the injured Felipe Massa, added: “After one and a half years in a test role, I feel really prepared, both physically and mentally for a full race season. My objective is to be as strong and consistent as possible and give good feedback to the team to help them improve. For sure scoring points as many times as I can is going to be the key and you never know, perhaps we can get something more as well if everything comes together.”
Following its Tuesday launch, the VJM03 will make its testing debut at the Spanish circuit of Jerez on Wednesday. Liuzzi will be in charge of driving duties for the first two days, before Sutil takes over on Friday and Saturday.