SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS, Belgium -- Tune in to Sunday's Belgian Grand Prix and on the face of it very little will have changed for Force India. The cars are still pink, they are still on the grid and, for this weekend at least, the driver line-up remains unchanged. But if you follow the sport more closely, it will not have escaped your attention that some fairly big changes have taken place behind the scenes.
Put simply, the ownership of the team has switched from Vijay Mallya, Subrata Roy and the Mol family to a consortium of investors led by Lawrence Stroll. But the process by which the team got there, which included going into administration over the Hungarian Grand Prix weekend, led to a series of complications that were only fully resolved on the Thursday ahead of the Belgian Grand Prix. Below is a guide to everything you need to know about the changes at the team.
Prior to Thursday the team was entered into the championship under the name Sahara Force India. However, that entry was excluded in the run up to the Belgian Grand Prix and the team's new owners submitted a new mid-season entry that was accepted by the FIA. Under the new entry the team is known as Racing Point Force India.
Speaking on Friday, new team principal Otmar Szafnauer explained why the "Force India" part of the name had been retained: "I think the reason is that we started the year with Force India as our chassis name. Formula One and the FIA, they don't like chassis name changes, and I understand why because it confuses the fans.
"We thought it was prudent to keep Force India for the fans. The car's still pink, we have the same sponsors, we still have the same drivers, we have the same motorhome, we still have the same employees. You look at us and we're exactly the same. I think it would have been confusing to remove Force India. Racing Point was added in front of Force India instead of Sahara, we were Sahara Force India before, that was just so we can distinguish between the old and the new.
"Racing Point just so happens to be the name of the company in the United Kingdom that owns the assets. That's the only reason for Racing Point being there. But the chassis name remains Force India, and I think from a fan perspective, that's the right thing."
A full name change for next year will be possible with approval from the F1 Commission.
When Sahara Force India's entry was excluded from the championship, the team's 59 points from the first 12 races of the season went with it. As a new entry, Racing Point Force India starts the Belgian Grand Prix on zero points and its final championship position for 2018 will be determined by the points it accrues relative to its rivals from this weekend onwards. The drivers keep their points in the drivers' championship in the same way that a driver who switched teams mid season would keep theirs.
The team's future prize money for next year will be determined by where it finishes in the championship this year, but crucially its previous year's prize money and status in the championship has also been retained. A team usually has to compete for two full seasons before it can qualify for what are known as Column 1 payments, but despite being a new entrant, Racing Point Force India will still keep its Column 1 status and retain all its prize money from last year. For the arrangement to be made official it required the agreement of the nine other teams.
After losing all its points as a new entrant, logic would follow that the team would have its power unit usage for the year wiped clean as well. Each car is allowed just three engines, turbochargers and MGU-Hs per year and just two MHU-Ks, energy stores and control electronics. Exceed that allocation and the driver of the car starts incurring grid penalties, so it would be an obvious advantage for Force India to start from zero in Spa. But the FIA has decided to close that loophole and has made sure Force India continues with the same engine allocation it had under its previous entry.
"As far as engine allocation goes, we had confirmation today from Charlie [Whiting] that we will continue with the engine allocation and gearbox allocation as if we never ceased racing," Szafnauer said. "I think in his eyes, that was the most fair thing to do vis-a-vis the other teams. That's how we're going to go forward."
For the Spa weekend Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon remain at Force India, but it is not yet clear if that will remain the same until the end of the season. Lawrence Stroll is the father of Williams driver Lance Stroll and it would make sense for his son to drive for the team that he owns. That could kick off a series of changes up and down the grid, with Ocon linked to a switch to McLaren and Robert Kubica in line for a sensational comeback if Stroll leaves Williams. But as things stand Szafnauer was not willing to comment on a change of drivers.
"Yes, for the short term, it's the same two," he said. "What happens thereafter, it's not impossible to change, that's for sure, but a lot of agreements would have to happen so I don't know. It's hard for me to predict that in the future."