The Sahara Force India Formula One Team go from strength to strength. Sergio ‘Checo’ Perez who qualified for Sunday’s European Grand Prix on the front row in second place alongside Nico Rosberg but started the event at the Baku circuit in seventh place due to a gearbox penalty was by far the driver of the day.
The Mexican drove a fantastic race staying out trouble and showing that the VJM09 has great race pace as he secured his second podium finish in three races ending the European Grand Prix in third place following on from his third place finish in Monaco last month.
Perez took third place on merit having overtaken Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen whose tyres had worn out on the last lap as he wanted to earn the podium rather than inherit it as Raikkonen had a five second time penalty. Speaking following the race Checo commented by saying:
I knew that the podium was possible today, but we really had to work hard for it. The key to my race was the great start I made to get around a Williams [Massa] and a Toro Rosso [Kvyat]. Then, in the first stint I was suffering with graining of my supsersoft tyres and we had to decide whether to wait for it to improve or to make an early stop. In the end, we stayed out longer, which was the right decision, but when I came out of the pits I struggled to warm-up the soft tyres and I was under big pressure from Lewis [Hamilton] behind. I pushed as hard as I could and opened up a gap, and then I focussed on looking after my tyres. I closed in on Kimi [Raikkonen] and I knew he had a penalty, but on the final lap I got very close to him and saw the opportunity to overtake him, so I took it. To be on the podium for a second time this year feels fantastic. The team has done a brilliant job and we are having an amazing year.
Nico Hulkenberg in the second Force India did a great job for the team too as the German who started the race from 12th place came home in ninth and speaking following the race the Hulk commented by saying:
It was a fairly tough race for me. The start was ok, but coming into turn one someone [Gutierrez] hit me from behind. I lost a couple of positions trying to control the car and that put me a bit on the back foot. Getting through traffic in the opening stages was not very easy and it cost me a lot of time. Then, for the early part of the race, I was struggling with oversteer and in general I couldn’t find the same harmony with the car that I had in practice. Making the supersoft tyres last as long as I did – 31 laps – was not easy and by the end of the race I had very little left, but it was a risk I was happy to take to make our strategy work. The car had great potential all weekend long, but I feel I paid for the mistake I made yesterday in qualifying. However, I am pleased for the team’s result: it means we bring home a bunch of points which is a boost for our season.
The double points finish for the Silverstone based outfit means that they are just 31 points behind Williams in the race for fourth place and with neither Toro Rosso driver scoring points today they have increased their margin over the Italian team.
Speaking following the race, Force India deputy team principal Robert Fernley commented by saying:
What a fantastic result from a weekend where we looked strong from the start. It is a success for the whole team: from the crew that repaired Checo’s damaged car after FP3 and produced two brilliant stops at a crucial time, to the guys on the pit wall who made the right calls, and of course everyone back at base. We knew we had the pace to fight at the front, even if we were starting further back than we wanted, but we delivered the result in the end. Checo drove well and a second podium in three races shows that he is getting the potential out of the car. Nico was unlucky to be hit at the start by Gutierrez, which ultimately compromised his race. He lost a few positions, but was able to keep the car facing the right way. Starting in P12, he had a different strategy and he was only a couple of laps away from finishing seventh, but he still claimed some important points. Today’s result strengthens our fifth position in the championship and moves us closer to fourth . I have no doubt there will be celebrations tonight!
Force India team principal and managing director Dr Vijay Mallya took to Twitter to say:
I am seriously dancing in the rain with Force India’s 2nd podium in 3 races. My guys are the very best.