Sahara Force India endured a day of mixed emotions on the opening day of the Malaysian Grand Prix as Nico Hulkenberg finished mid-field while team-mate Sergio Perez struggled with limited running.
Hulkenberg completed a total of 53 laps over the two sessions and was happy with what the team had managed to achieve in the opening practice sessions. “I think we can be satisfied with what we learned today. We worked through the programme and there were no big issues on my side.
“Of course, the hot weather here means conditions are tough and we found that tyre management during the long run was quite challenging. It’s even more difficult this year because there is more wheelspin with these engines and the rear degradation is quite high.”
“I need some more grip and we need to tweak the balance before final practice.” added Hulkenberg.
While the German driver managed a trouble-free day his Mexican team-mate Perez could only manage 2 laps in the first practice session after a fuel system issue meant he was force to sit out the rest of the session.
He would have better luck in the afternoon and completed a total of 25 laps, focusing on gathering data on the tyres. “Not an easy day because I missed most of the morning session and that has limited my running on the hard compound.
“In the afternoon we tried to improve the car, as well as learning about the tyres, but I still feel we need to make a big step tonight to be ready for qualifying. The tyre performance gap between the hard and the medium compound is not that big, but we suffered with high degradation on both tyres.”
Chief Operating officer Otmar Szafnauer was happy with progress despite the problems Perez experienced “We met our mileage target for the tyres and signed off the cooling solutions we have in place for this weekend. The long run performance looks competitive, although coping with the high tyre degradation will be critical come Sunday afternoon.”