For the eighth time in eight Formula One races in 2014, the Sahara Force India team picked up points as Sergio Perez finished sixth and Nico Hulkenberg ninth in the Austrian Grand Prix at the Red Bull Ring. The result enabled the team to stay fourth in the constructors championship ahead of the rejuvenated Williams Martini Racing team.
Perez had a great race in Austria, using a Soft-Soft-Supersoft strategy well to finish sixth having started well down the field after a penalty. He made a good start and passed the McLaren-Mercedes of Jenson Button on the opening lap who was aiming to run the same strategy as the Force India driver, something he felt was important to do. The Mexican even led the race confidently before his first pit stop, and then overtook the second McLaren of Kevin Magnussen in the closing stages to take sixth.
“Today we got a very positive result for the team, especially considering where we started the afternoon,” said Perez. “When you start in 16th it is always going to be difficult to make up ground, but I had a very strong start and made up a good few positions. It was especially important to pass Jenson [Button] because he was on a similar strategy to mine: it was a key moment for my race.
“The strategy worked; we showed once more that we can manage the tyres well, and we had a very strong race pace, as we have had all year. It was nice to be in the lead for a while, although we obviously knew that the cars behind us were on a different strategy.
“The only regret is that without the grid penalty I would have been further up the grid, which would have made a big difference because we had the pace to fight for a podium today. It’s nice to be back in the points after two disappointing races: the car is improving and we are in good shape.”
Nico Hulkenberg attempted a different strategy to his team-mate but was disappointed to finish down in ninth after losing eighth to Daniel Ricciardo’s Red Bull on the final lap. He admitted he struggled with the balance of his car throughout the race but looking at Perez’s result he knows some analysing of the race will need to be done to see just where he lost time to his Mexican team-mate.
“It was quite a tough afternoon and more difficult than I was expecting,” said Hulkenberg. “Inside the car I was struggling with the balance quite a lot, which hurt our pace and also had an impact on the tyre wear. So I think it was just a general lack of pace which stopped me from being able to get a better result.
“Checo obviously had better race pace, even though he was on a different strategy, so we need to understand why that was the case. It’s good to continue picking up points and I had some good battles this afternoon, especially with Ricciardo on the final lap. I was fighting hard to keep him behind but he had a tyre advantage and I could not hold him off.”
The Team Principal and Managing Director of Sahara Force India Dr Vijay Mallya was happy to see both cars score points in Austria and see his team retain fourth place in the Constructors’ Championship but by a reduced margin of two points from the ultra-quick Williams team. He was delighted how Perez came through after his penalty, and praised Hulkenberg for his consistency after continuing his points scoring run.
“All in all it’s encouraging to see both our cars come home in the points to maintain our fourth place in the championship,” said Mallya. “Checo’s race was particularly noteworthy when you consider that he started from P16. It was a very mature drive and he did a fantastic job of looking after the tyres and making an alternative strategy work. His pace was excellent, he set the fastest lap of the race, and he didn’t put a wheel wrong. The opening lap was the key to making the strategy work because he overtook five cars.
“Nico’s two-stop race followed a similar pattern to most of the frontrunners, but he struggled for outright pace on the soft tyres. He still picked up a couple of points – continuing his run of points in every race this year, which shows how consistent he has been.
“It sets us up nicely for the British Grand Prix where we will try and deliver another strong showing at our local track.”