The tyres were changed (back to 2012-spec) from Hungary onwards and if we look at the points scored before and after Hungary - there is a clear difference:
Pre-Hungary (9 races)
Paul di Resta: 7 x in the points, 36 points scored.
Adrian Sutil: 4 x in the points, 23 points scored.
Total: 11 x in the points, 59 points scored.
Hungary Onwards (8 races)
Paul di Resta: 2 x in the points, 12 points scored.
Adrian Sutil: 4 x in the points, 6 points scored.
Total: 6 x in the points, 18 points scored.
This data shows that the tyres have had a massive effect on our performance this season. It does seem unfair that we designed our car around the 2013 tyres, only to have the regulations change and disadvantage us, but it is understandable. Both the FIA and Pirelli did not want to take further risks, and that's completely reasonable. I have noticed that many fans blame Pirelli for this - but actually, they can have no blame placed at their door. The tyres were fine, the problem was that teams were using them incorrectly in terms of cambers and pressures. Pirelli did their job correctly.
The general thinking in the paddock is that as the 2014 season features such a massive regulation overhaul, development for that season's car takes on greater priority. Force India think differently however. Currently results in a Formula One race are determined predominantly by aerodynamics and tyres - in other words - Formula One is currently an aero and tyre formula. Force India's philosophy was that as engines are brand new for 2014, certain companies will inevitably produce engines of different capability, thus giving less significance to the effect of aerodynamics and tyres and essentially making Formula One an engine formula.
Development is always a balancing act. How much time do you devote to the current season, and how much do you devote to next season? As Force India had the idea that aerodynamics will be less significant in 2014, they had planned to keep focus on the 2013 car late into the season (until around the point of the Singapore GP). The plan was vindicated when the team found that their car was quick early on and had a shot at 5th in the constructors championship. With the majority of teams placing urgency on 2014 for most of the season, if we keep our development focus on the 2013 car really late into the year - we could leapfrog other teams on pace in latter races - that was the plan anyway.
It is worth noting that we are talking about development focus here, that's different from pure development. The 2014 car project was always planned to start in April, and it did so with no problems. Development focus means the project has more time and resources than any other project - this was not planned to be the case for the 2014 car until around the Singapore GP.
This philosophy all changed when the news came that the tyres would be reverted back to 2012 specification. When it became clear that our pace had dramatically dropped off as a result, the team started focussing the majority of resources onto the 2014 project. At this point, a lot of other teams had already done the same - but some notable teams had not, including Mercedes and McLaren. In fact, it is widely understood in the paddock that given the amount of revisions McLaren were still bringing to their car up to India - they still did not yet shift focus to 2014! We may just lose out to them this season in the championship, but we have a cracking chance of beating them next season - especially using the same Mercedes engine!
Essentially, we were in the middle of the pack in terms of when we switched focus to the 2014. It is worth noting though that if Mercedes to produce an engine that has a clear advantage over the other engine companies - we have a mega chance of taking the title! In terms of the Mercedes-powered teams, our car should start off the season as a better baseline package in comparison to Mercedes and McLaren - as we switched development focus earlier. The only team with Mercedes power who could be better than us are actually Williams as they have been focussed on 2014 for so long now, pretty much from the start of this season! I am not saying it is probable we are going to win a title, but there is a remote possibility ... it is something I'll be putting a cheeky little bet on anyway!
The other factor in the 2014 conundrum is the driver line-up. Here's a quick run down of the drivers in contention:
Paul di Resta - He is under contract with us for 2014 which means the ONLY way he will not be at the team is if another team wants him. I can not see the Force India board willing to pay off Paul's contract to sack him, not when 2014 is already so expensive with the new engines. Why would they want to sack him anyway? He is our top scorer so far this season! Yes, he has made a few mistakes, but show me a driver who hasn't.
Adrian Sutil - Does not currently have any deal in place for 2014. The German is behind on points compared to his team-mate this season, but his general pace is at a similar level. Adrian has lacked luck this season, especially at the start of the year however he seems to have developed an attitude problem. It is well documented that Adrian is angry at Lewis Hamilton for personal reasons, and twice this year Adrian has blocked Lewis on the track in an unsportsmanlike way. Once could be a genuine mistake, but twice? Dubious. As a result, his seat is under threat.
Nico Hulkenberg - The man who left Force India previously may well come back after spending 2013 in an uncompetitive Sauber car for the majority of the season. Everybody is well aware that Nico is fast and he should be a race winner by now (remember Brazil 2012?). That is why there is interest in him from Lotus too. The key factor here is Quantum Motorsports potential investment into Lotus. If it goes through, they will take Nico Hulkenberg - if it doesn't, they will take Maldonado for his oil money leaving Nico free on the market. Is this what Force India are waiting on?
Felipe Massa - Years of struggling to match Alonso has caused Ferrari to lose patience with him and so the Brazilian is out for 2014. Many say Felipe has been slow over the last few seasons because of his life-threatening accident at the Hungarian GP in 2009, but that is complete nonsense. He has had a podium since that accident and you can not do that without being quick. The problem at Ferrari is that the team gear all development towards Fernando Alonso's driving style and therefore it is no surprise Felipe has been slower in recent years. Actually, on a few occasions, Felipe has beaten Fernando which shows he has still got it! Force India are definitely taking a look at the Brazilian who would bring a wealth of experience and a little sponsorship also.
Max Chilton - Has been partnered in 2013 with someone we know well at Force India, Jules Bianchi. He has really struggled to match Jules' pace this season though. People do not seem to be sure if that is because Jules is so quick or Max is so slow; in actual fact it is probably a little bit of both. Max has shown signs of improvement though which is promising! Max's career is supported by his father who says "there is something in place for 2014" - and the media did mention that this could mean Force India, however I think this is very, very unlikely. I expect Max to remain at Marussia in 2014.
Felipe Nasr - Had a solid 2013 in GP2, finishing 4th just three points behind James Calado. Felipe is an interesting driver, he clearly has speed in abundance - he has just never quite managed to win a race in the two years he has been in GP2 though. He has finished on the podium 10 times however so he is a capable driver. Consistency is one of Felipe's strong points too, and we all know how important that is in Formula One. I do not think Force India will take Felipe for 2014. He needs to grab some wins, take the GP2 title in 2014 and then he will almost certainly have an F1 drive somewhere on the grid for 2015.
Kevin Magnussen - Kevin had a great 2013, taking the Formula Renault 3.5 title with 13 podiums from 17 races. Kevin is an interesting name to be linked to Force India because he is actually part of McLaren's young driver programme. Given that we are slowly cutting ties with McLaren and leaning more towards Mercedes for our technical partnership, I think it is unlikely Kevin will be part of Force India in 2014. Actually, my sources tell me Kevin is closing in on a deal to replace Sergio Perez for 2014 - that would be very interesting! In my opinion, I think Kevin needs another strong year in a lower Formula under his belt - I'm against pushing youngsters into the sport before they are ready - we've seen it go wrong too many times in the past.
In my opinion there are two possible outcomes for our driver line-up in 2014, and it all depends on the Lotus deal with Quantum Motorsports.
1) The deal does not go through. This means that Lotus will need to hire someone who brings money through sponsorship (Maldonado), leaving Nico Hulkenberg to rejoin Force India alongside Paul di Resta who already has a contract. James Calado will remain reserve driver.
2) The deal does go through. This means Lotus will hire on talent rather than financial backing, therefore they will take Nico Hulkenberg. In this scenario, I think we'll take Felipe Massa to partner Paul di Resta, again with James Calado remaining as reserve driver.
Out of these two scenario's, I predict #1 is more likely. Lotus have been in discussions with Quantum Motorsports for many months now, if the deal has not been concluded already - despite Lotus desperately needing the money - then I can't see it ever being completed. Both these scenario's include no Adrian Sutil in 2014 which would be a shame after he has given us so many years of service, but Formula One is a fast-paced World where things can change quickly.
Of course these are just my opinions, I would love to know what you guys think!
Thank you for reading,