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Force India counting the cost of success

Team’s fourth place finish may be costing the team more next season

Gulf News

London: Force India are enjoying their highest-scoring Formula One season, the team punching above their weight to secure fourth place in the constructors’ championship for the second year in a row.

But, as chief operating officer Otmar Szafnauer wryly observes, there is a point at which success is a bit of a mixed blessing.

“Every point we gain now, it doesn’t help us to secure fourth but it does cost us in entry for the championship next year, another $5,000 per point to the FIA,” the Romanian-born American said.

“We can’t afford that,” he added, before a hasty “only joking”.

Every point costs $5,161, on top of a basic sum of $516,128, when it comes to calculating a team’s 2018 entrance fee. The rate for champions Mercedes is even greater — $6,194 per point and they have 625 so far.

Force India’s 177 — four points more than last year’s haul — will cost the Silverstone-based team $913,497 on top of the base fee and there is still next week’s finale in Abu Dhabi to come.

That is a tidy sum for a team counting ever penny, with a staff of 400 and an annual budget of around $100 million compared to rivals with double the workforce and three times the financial clout.

Force India cannot overhaul third-placed Red Bull, who are 181 points ahead, and nor are they in any danger from fifth-placed Williams on 82. They will still be pushing hard, however.

Mexican Sergio Perez and French team mate Esteban Ocon are free to race each other, after being reined in as a result of earlier clashes, and will be hoping to wrap up on a high.

Formula One is far from a level-playing field and Szafnauer, who works with deputy principal Bob Fernley to steer the team at the track in the absence of embattled co-owner Vijay Mallya, knows 2018 will be another tough battle.

When it comes to discretionary spend — the amount left over after engine bills, travel costs and staff wages are deducted from the budget — Force India have far less than their main rivals.

“For us that’s probably one tenth of what some of the others have,” said Szafnauer.

Force India have been helped by former champions McLaren enduring a nightmare with Honda, Williams failing to make the most of their Mercedes engine and Renault rebuilding. But all three can be expected to raise their game next year.

“We’re up for the challenge and we will target to three-peat the fourth place,” said Szafnauer, who saw various main ingredients to Force India’s success, apart from having a Mercedes engine.