Last year’s Force India car surprised a lot of people with a pole and second-place finish at Spa-Francorchamps. The VJM-02 was a quick car around high-speed circuits, with an excellent Mercedes powertrain and very little drag. It was, as with six other 2009 cars, not designed or laid out with a high-volume two-deck diffuser in mind — and was unable fully to exploit the DDD that was eventually tacked on. With all this in mind, the new car is an evolution of a sound design (what an odd thing to be saying about a Force India!), trying to keep the slick low-drag performance of the VJM-02 while finding extra downforce to improve performance in the twisties.
The sidepods are slab-sided (like the MGP-W01 and the R30) rather than undercut (like damn near everyone else), and the intakes look awfully low. There’s gotta be some interaction between the sidepod roofs and the outboard mirrors; speaking of those mirrors, the mirror-mount turning vanes look to be pointed further towards the car’s centreline than any of the others I’ve seen. That suggests a bunch of air flowing around the outside of the car, which I would have thought would be best with undercut sidepods.
Also of note is the McLaren-ish shark fin, with a high and narrow strip connecting the engine cover to the top element of the rear wing. I don’t have a good mental model of how (or why) this works, but it sure looks cool. Also like the MP4-25, the VJM-03 has a single-post wing mount, which ought to tie in nicely with the shark fin. I wonder if McL and FI are sharing (a few) ideas now that Mercedes has its own dog in the hunt?
From the side, not much changes. We seee another high nose, with ducts at the front splitter to direct more air under the car (somewhat unusual, but if that’s what it takes to feed an enormous diffuser I can hardly object). The big black things visible between the front wing and the tires are the L-shaped plates hanging below the front suspension, presumably to direct just enough flow into those splitter ducts. The other major point of interest on the VJM-03’s side view is the exhaust structure: looks like there’s a sharp drop-off of the engine cover bodywork around the exhaust outlets, which I’d presume creates a low-pressure zone that sucks air towards the centre of the car (along with high-energy flow from the exhaust itself) and feeds the rear wing and diffuser structure.
Speaking of the diffuser, there is some awesome shit going on at the back of the VJM-03. I’d elaborate, but ScarbsF1 has already done an excellent job:
Go thou and read. It’s short and well-illustrated; I can wait.
From the front we see awfully small barge-boards; I’d have thought the low-mounted sidepod intakes would make bigger, more aggressive barge-boards an obvious proposition. I could swear there’s a small bump between the front wing mounts, much like there was on the Renault R29 (but without the venturi section under the nose); that might influence airflow over the neutral plane in the centre of the wing, or it might just be a trick of the light. The wing itself is well-developed but, typical for a 2010 launch, last year’s model. Camera pods probably condition air through the front suspension. Otherwise, nothing much jumps out.