The Sahara Force India team can look back at the Canadian Grand Prix with pride having scored ten points with Nico Hulkenberg for fifth, but a better result could have been possible for team-mate Sergio Perez who crashed out of the race on the last lap after a collision with the Williams of Felipe Massa while running fourth.
Perez had a strong race in Montreal and had been running in second place behind the ailing Mercedes of Nico Rosberg for a long period. Team-mate Hulkenberg ran a different strategy in Canada and was able to finish a impressive fifth, holding off the challenge of double World Champion Fernando Alonso in his Ferrari for a long period of time.
Moving on to this weekend’s Austrian Grand Prix, the team are hopeful for another strong performance, and a continuation of their points scoring run that has stretched now to seven races out of seven in 2014.
Team Principal and Managing Director Dr Vijay Mallya looked back at the last Grand Prix in Montreal, praising the efforts of both drivers despite seeing Perez crashing out right at the end of the race while challenging for a podium finish.
“Nico drove a brilliant race to score another ten points, but up until the last lap it looked like being an even sweeter result with both cars very well placed,” said Mallya. “Sadly it was not meant to be. The car, the team and the drivers performed admirably throughout the whole weekend. The VJM07 was very competitive; we got all the strategy calls right and we were on course for one of our best ever results.
“The accident for Sergio on the last lap took that away from us, but we should not forget the positives: our tyre management was excellent and we were able to race at the front and challenge for the win. It was one of our strongest races.”
Looking over the season to date, Mallya admits being proud at what his team have achieved, including scoring points in every race so far. He knows to continue this run the car will need to be developed some more, and he insists more upgrades are coming for the VJM07.
“I am very proud of what the team has achieved so far, but by no means are we going to ease off at this point. The development race is not going to stop: we are working hard to bring updates to the car and give our drivers an even better chance to score big results. Of course, we have shown a good level of consistency, being able to score in every race so far, and we want to continue to be able to ruffle a few feathers in the top spots.”
Looking ahead to Austria, Mallya expects the teams that have been competitive up to know in 2014 will once again be at the front this time around. He has high hopes that the Red Bull Ring will suit the VJM07 but knows the team will have to be on the top of their game to get a good result.
“The last time Formula One raced there, the cars were very different from what they are now so it is difficult to predict how the pecking order will be,” added Mallya. “We don’t expect massive surprises, however – cars that have been competitive so far will retain their advantage. The track layout seems likely to be favourable to the characteristics of the VJM07, but the competitive order is very tight and we will need to be performing at our best to come away with a good result.”
Hulkenberg goes into Austria having continued his impressive scoring run that began at the beginning of the season. The German felt the strategy in Canada was the fastest one for him, and he was delighted to come away with ten more points in the championship.
“We have shown once more to be both competitive and consistent, and to come away with ten points after a very busy race was really positive,” said Hulkenberg. “I was on a different strategy from everyone else, which meant I was under pressure for most of the afternoon, but I think we were on the fastest strategy for us, even if the early safety car didn’t really help. But everything worked as planned and we came away with a very strong result.”
The German feels the team are still well placed to continue their scoring run, but knows any slip up could be costly. He admits the Austrian track is a big unknown for everyone, and he expects mistakes to be punished massively as the times are likely to be very close up and down the field.
“We are in a very good position to keep scoring points, but we will need to keep our guard up and keep working hard as we did from the start,” added Hulkenberg. “There will be tracks where we will be stronger and where we can capitalise on the opportunities we have, and tracks that will be more of a challenge. I know what plans the team has for the rest of the season and I see no reason why we cannot keep battling at the level we are at now.
“Together with Russia, this race is one of the big question marks for everyone this year. The track has some long straights and a few slow corners that should suit us, and we can count on making the most of softer compounds as we did in Canada. When you go to a new track it’s even more important to maximise the practice sessions because there is so much more to learn. The lap is quite short so the gaps between the cars will be minimal and even small mistakes can make a big difference.”
Team-mate Perez is another driver never to have competed in Austria before, but is looking forward to the challenge. He hopes the track will suit his Force India and allow the Mexican to score some more points for the team.
“I don’t really know what to expect because it’s my first visit to the track, but I’m really looking forward to going there,” said Perez. “It’s a circuit that not many people know and so it can give you an opportunity to find a small advantage. You have to learn fast and be ready to adapt. A new circuit is always a bit more of a challenge, but it’s interesting and I like the look of the track layout.
“I think the layout of the track will work well for our car. Hopefully we will have the opportunity for another strong performance there.”