In a qualifying session dominated by the inclement weather, Nico Hulkenberg once again put in an excellent performance to put his Sahara Force India seventh on the grid, but team-mate Sergio Perez was eliminated in the second session and will line-up fourteenth. Both drivers and Sahara Force India Team Principal Vijay Mallya are hopeful for a second consecutive double points finish on Sunday.
“It was pretty challenging with the weather conditions today,” admitted Hulkenberg. “There was so much rain, standing water and spray. Visibility was an issue and it was hard to see your braking points. It’s tricky to drive these engines with lots of torque in these conditions and you need to be really smooth with the throttle out of the slow corners, but I enjoyed the challenge. We’re in P7 and in the top ten on the grid for the second time in a row, which is a result we can be satisfied with.”
Hulkenberg was well within the top ten of each of the qualifying sessions, and his 2:01.712s lap ultimately put him seventh, just behind the Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen, but ahead of Australia podium finisher Kevin Magnussen in his McLaren. Team-mate Perez was eliminated after the second part of qualifying as weather conditions worsened and will start fourteenth.
“The conditions out there were very difficult and they kept changing with every lap, especially during Q2,” said Perez. “I had a better feeling on the intermediate tyres and when I changed to the full wets I struggled to keep the temperature in them, which made it hard to put together a good lap. Tomorrow we will need to try and recover from P14, but we have to see what the weather will do. I also need to solve the rear locking which is affecting me under braking in the wet conditions.”
Team Principal and Managing Director Mallya has hopes that his teams’ mechanics will solve Perez’s breaking issues overnight, and is hopeful of a second consecutive double points finish in Sepang.
“Another very wet qualifying session in Sepang presented us with challenging conditions today,” said Mallya. “Nico looked comfortable in the wet and matched his starting position from Melbourne with seventh place. He has been in the top ten in all the sessions this weekend and should be in good shape for tomorrow.
“Sergio struggled more in the wet and didn’t have confidence on the wet tyres. We will try and solve those issues tonight because there’s a good chance of more rain tomorrow. Whether it’s wet or dry I’d like to see both Sahara Force India cars well inside the top ten.”
Looking forward to the race, both Force India drivers are hopeful of points, with the weather looking as uncertain as it was during qualifying, both are confident as the car has been working well in all conditions in Malaysia.
“I’m still confident we can have a good race and I will keep fighting to score as many points as possible,” said Perez, while team-mate Hulkenberg added “I think we have shown all weekend that we have the speed to be top ten material whether it’s wet or dry and I hope to score a good helping of points tomorrow.”