The Sahara Force India Formula One Team had a mixed day at the season opening Australian Grand Prix on Sunday in Melbourne’s Albert Park.
Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg started the race from 9th and 10th on the grid respectively with Hulkenberg making a better getaway and used a two stop strategy coming in on lap 16 for new softs before stopping again on lap 41 for new medium tyres to good affect ending the race in seventh place just behind Romain Grosjean and ahead of Valtteri Bottas.
Speaking following the race, the German commented by saying:
To get some points in the bag at the first race is a positive way to start the year. It was not an easy day and it’s difficult to know what would have happened without the race being stopped and restarted. I think the red flag made things a lot more difficult for our planned one-stop strategy because it gave everybody around us the chance to reset and change their tyres. So that was a shame and it meant I was out of position and got stuck behind the Haas for most of the race. It was not easy to get close to Romain [Grosjean] and I had a lot of cars behind me, which meant I was always under pressure and having to defend as well as chase. So, given all the circumstances, seventh place feels quite satisfying.
Sergio ‘Checo’ Perez had a disappointing race in the second VJM09 as the Mexican who qualified ahead of his team mate ended the race behind the Hulk in 13th place using an identical strategy to his team mate.
Speaking after ending the race in 13th place, Perez commented by saying:
It’s a real shame to finish outside of the points. My problems began at the start: I lost a couple of places off the line and that put me in a very difficult position. I spent my first stint behind Alonso, who was on a faster compound, and being stuck in the dirty air destroyed my tyres. Unfortunately there was a very similar situation after the restart because I was passed by Jenson (Button), who was on supersoft tyres, and that cost me a lot of time. Sadly the Safety Car and the red flag ruined our strategy, which was to stop only once. When the race restarted we had our work cut out: I had pressure from behind and the Renaults and Williams ahead were very difficult to catch – I got close but couldn’t really attack. In the end I had an issue with overheating brakes, probably because I spent most of the race in traffic, but we still managed to finish the race. It’s not an ideal start of the season for me, especially after the good work we had done in qualifying yesterday, but we have to keep looking ahead and continue working hard.
Sahara Force India head to the next race, the Bahrain Grand Prix in sixth place in the championship and speaking following the race, Deputy Team Principal Robert Fernley commented by saying:
The first race is always a bit of a step into the unknown, so getting some points on the board is a positive conclusion to a challenging weekend. Our strategy was shaping up very nicely with the plan to stop both cars only once, but the red flag reset the strategies of everyone around us and made our task much more difficult. Making our pit stops just prior to the safety car also cost us track position. Getting Nico back up to seventh place was a good recovery and he did an excellent job of containing Bottas and the Toro Rosso pair for most of the afternoon. Sergio’s strategy was also undone by the red flag, even more so than Nico’s because he dropped to the back of the midfield traffic jam and suffered with high tyre degradation. So a day of mixed fortunes for us, but at least we’ve got some points on the board and we are looking forward to Bahrain.