The performance of the two Sahara Force India’s in Bahrain was one of the bigger talking points of the weekend, with Sergio Perez managing to achieve only the team’s second ever podium finish, beaten only by the all-conquering Mercedes. Team-mate Nico Hulkenberg also impressed during the race and finished the race in fifth after starting just outside the top ten.
“Today is one of the greatest days in the history of our team,” said Force India Team Principal and Managing Director Dr Vijay Mallya. “It’s been a long time coming, but it’s very satisfying to see Sahara Force India back on the podium after so many near misses in recent years. We have a great driver line-up and today we saw both Checo and Nico at their best as they battled for a place on the podium.
“Without the safety car our two-stop strategies would have been much more comfortable because we faced a strong assault from the Red Bulls in the closing stages. Nico did a fantastic job to keep them back for so long and hold on to fifth place. It gave Checo the breathing space he needed to secure third place. So I’m extremely proud of everyone in the team and congratulate all of them on this achievement. 2014 is a new chance and we have shown we’re moving forward in Australia, Malaysia and here. I couldn’t be happier.”
While the team principal might have been happy, his driver Perez was ecstatic to finally put the Force India team back on the podium; the one and only time this had happened before was with Giancarlo Fisichella back in Spa-Francorchamps in 2009.
“This podium is an amazing achievement and one of the most special results in my whole career,” said Perez, whose previous three podiums came for the Sauber team back in 2012. “This is a massive confidence boost, especially after the very hard season I had last year [with McLaren], and it was the hardest-fought podium I ever had. It was an amazing feeling to cross the line because the last few laps were very difficult.
“I had to keep up the pace and I knew the Red Bulls were coming. In the end we managed to stay ahead and score this very special result in only my third race with the team. I also had a great fight with my team-mate during the whole race. When he got ahead of me after the first stop, I tried to keep my head down to get back ahead. I managed to do that when we were fighting with the Williams and that was the crucial moment.”
Fifth-placed Hulkenberg was also happy after fighting with the Williams, Ferrari and Red Bull drivers all race long. He was delighted the team could show they can be competitive, and hopes that the momentum can be kept up when they go to China in two weeks time.
“It’s a great day for the team and I’m very happy for the guys,” said Hulkenberg, who has yet to finish on the podium in Formula 1. “The battle with Checo was very clean and fair, and when you’re fighting for the podium you give everything but always stay within the lines. It was good fun. The end of the race was hard because I had to battle from the moment the safety car came in until the end of the race. I was behind Checo and I felt I had a little more pace, but I was in dirty air and that caused me to struggle towards the end.
“I held back [Daniel] Ricciardo for as long as I could and I managed to stay ahead of [Sebastian] Vettel. It’s a great achievement for the team and we’ve shown once again that we are competitive so hopefully we can keep up the momentum in China.”