Sahara Force India head to Malaysia full of confidence after a strong showing in the Australian Grand Prix.
Despite initial concerns over the reliability of the new formula, the team were able to pull together to bring both of their cars home in the points, even with Sergio Perez suffering a puncture on the first lap. Nico Hulkenberg finished the race in sixth.
“Australia was definitely a respectable start, without a doubt, and probably the best start we’ve had since I took over the team,” said Team Principle, Vijay Mallya. “We went into the race feeling good and confident. We were concerned initially about reliability, but I think the number of laps we were able to put in during Bahrain testing gave us the confidence that we were on top most issues. The fact that both the cars finished the race is a good way to start the season. I dare say Checo would have been higher up had he not had a first lap puncture. The fact that he finished where he did after three stops speaks for itself. Obviously there are reasons to be pleased, but we still realise that we need to find a bit more performance if we want to challenge for podiums. That’s what we are focussing on right now.”
As mentioned above, Perez’s race was put on the back foot almost immediately from the start, suffering a first-lap puncture. However, with help from the safety car and enjoying good pace from the VJM07 he managed to work his way back in to the points to bring home a valuable single point.
“It was really a shame,” said Perez. “We had a good start and a great first few corners, and we were up to tenth place. Then [Sauber's Esteban] Gutierrez locked his rears and came from nowhere. I actually saw him in my mirrors, but I was already turning into the corner. Once he hit me I was just a passenger; there was not much I could do, I got a puncture and had to pit. I think the pace was definitely in the car to score more points, but when you have to fight from the back it puts you in a difficult position.”
Looking forward to the Malaysian Grand Prix, both drivers and engineers alike know that not only is the track almost a polar opposite to Albert Park, but weather is likely to play a major part in the final results come Sunday afternoon.
“Malaysia is going to be a tough challenge with totally different track characteristics and higher temperatures, which always leads to higher tyre degradation,” explained Hulkenberg. “It should be a good test of the new cars because it’s much more open than Melbourne with a nice variation of high and low-speed corners, plus two long straights. This year we’ll see bigger jumps and changes in the pecking order during the season. There are still some teams that need to sort out their issues and they will probably become stronger. All teams, including us, will have room for improvement and development is going to be very fast.”