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Force India admit timescale was tough

Adrian Sutil, Force India, Silverstone shakedown February 2009Force India's technical chiefs have admitted that the late confirmation of their deal with McLaren-Mercedes meant they faced a race against time to prepare the new VJM02.

But they are confident that the change was worth making, and that Force India will be much more competitive as a result of their new partnership.

McLaren and Mercedes are supplying Force India's engines, gearboxes, hydraulics and KERS this year, but the deal was only finalised at the start of November.

Force India's design director Mark Smith admitted that the change of engine supplier had added substantially to their winter workload.

"When we confirmed the partnership on 10 November 2008 we had to adapt our plans fairly significantly," he said.

"It's not just a case of getting the new parts and installing them; when we changed the gearbox, it had slightly different suspension mountings and when we changed the rear suspension there was a necessary change on the front. Other areas subject to change were the fuel cell, and the cooling system. All have been challenges in their own right, but not day and night differences as you've seen on the aero side.

"Adapting to a new engine and gearbox is not actually fundamentally difficult, the biggest factor has been the timeframe we have worked with.

"We had got a fair way down the line with our 2009 plans at that point and then had to adapt them to the new suppliers. Normally you would have started in August, so we have had to compress everything into five months.

"Everyone has really worked hard to make it work and we've got a potentially better package, so the change has been a positive rather than a negative."

Technical director James Key added that the rear bodywork had also required a redesign.

"We haven't had to start from scratch but we have had to repackage and redefine certain areas, such as the side pods, cooling and the rear of the car," Key said.

"We spent a long time trying to get the bodywork right and the guys in the wind tunnel design office have done an excellent job in interpreting the regulations. It is still very early days and I think we will still find new directions as development progresses."

But he agreed with Smith that the performance benefits of the Mercedes and McLaren components made the delay worthwhile.

"We know we have compromised on testing with the late debut of the car, but we have a very defined winter testing programme from now on and in general the positives on the McLaren/Mercedes deal have far outweighed the negatives," said Key.

Although Force India are receiving a KERS device from McLaren-Mercedes, Smith said they had not yet committed to starting the season with it.

"Our car is fully KERS compliant but whether we run the system will be decided jointly by Force India, McLaren and Mercedes," he said.

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