Bob Fernley says Force India will not name their second driver until after Jerez
Team boss admits Hulkenberg departure took them by surprise
By William Esler at Silverstone. Last Updated: February 2, 2013 1:42pm
Force India's Bob Fernley says the team will not name their second and third drivers until after the first pre-season test in Jerez.
Paul di Resta was the sole driver representative at the unveiling of the VJM06 at Silverstone and will be charged with putting the car through its paces next week.
That means that the new driver will have little more than a month to familiarise himself with the team before the season-opening grand prix in Australia, but Fernley does not think it will be an issue.
"I don't think it will be a disadvantage," The Deputy Team Principal said.
"Most of the work we do in Jerez is systems work so we are quite comfortable to run Paul.
"Paul is a major part of what we do. He gives us stability and his technical feedback is excellent and that is why it is quite important that we optimise Jerez with Paul as it is the first running and he is the benchmark for it and it is easy for a new driver to pick up on it once those elements have been resolved.
"He will hopefully have a car that is quite driveable by the time we get to Barcelona."
A lack of track time for the new driver is not a worry for Fernley, who added: "I don't think it makes any difference. Most of work these days is done on simulators, so whilst it is nice to have the track time, the track time is only quality if we have the conditions to go with it.
"So as long as the weather is good in Barcelona there should be no problem with the driver getting up to speed."
Force India launch VJM06
Fernley also stressed they were not simply looking for the highest bidder and that financial backing was unlikely to have any impact on the driver who gets the seat.
He stated: "The decision that we make will be for the benefit of the team and that is not necessarily a financial requirement - in fact it is highly unlikely that it will be."
A new technical partnership could have an impact on the decision, however, with Force India's current deal with McLaren ending at the end of this coming season, ahead of major rule changes in 2014.
"I think what we are trying to look at is that we have our technical programmes working forward and, over the next week or so, we should be able to put all that in place," Fernley said.
"I think the shareholders are the key people in deciding what they are looking for long term.
"There is an element of where we want to go into 2014 but it is one part of the whole equation. Yes, we are trying to balance everything but it would be too simplistic to say that it was linked to an engine.
"We've always had these mythical stories about Paul being linked with Mercedes and it is total nonsense. There is, however, a strong link with Jules (Bianchi) and Ferrari but it is not contingent.
Testing on Sky Sports
From dawn to dusk, Sky Sports Online will be providing live interactive commentary from trackside at both Jerez and Barcelona on every day of testing this winter, while Sky Sports News will be providing regular live updates from the tests, starting with Jerez on February 5-8.
A round-up show featuring the day's interviews from Jerez will go out at 9pm each evening of the test on Sky Sports F1.
"This is the last year of the McLaren partnership, the five-year deal finishes in 2013 and again that is part of our discussions about where we go and what we are doing going forward and everything else. So there is quite a lot going on for Force India at the moment on that side of it."
Nico Hulkenberg left the team at the end of 2012 for Sauber and Fernley admits they were surprised by his departure - perhaps explaining in part the time it has taken to appoint a replacement.
"We were not expecting Nico to go, so it was a surprise to us and all we are doing is making sure we dot the I's and the T's before we make that next step and that we have the right contracts in place to make sure we deliver what we want going forward," he added.