The Sahara Force India-Mercedes team go into the third round of the 2014 season in Bahrain having made their best start to a season since the team was called Jordan. They sit in fifth place in the championship, and have seen Nico Hulkenberg finish competitively in both races in Australia and Malaysia. Sergio Perez has had less luck, finishing tenth in Melbourne but failing to start last weekend in Sepang due to a car issue.
Team Principal of Sahara Force India, Dr Vijay Mallya, was in buoyant mood as he saw Hulkenberg lead the race – albeit for half a lap – in Malaysia.
“It’s always nice to see a Sahara Force India in front,” admitted Mallya. “You can’t just find yourself leading a Grand Prix by accident. Things have got to be in the right place at the right time, and you must be good enough to be able to be up there in front. We’ve still got some catching up to do if we want to be a regular podium contender.
“We’ve had our best start to a season in our history, since the Jordan times, and despite only one car finishing in Malaysia we are sitting in fifth in the Championship. Let’s hope we put on a strong show going forward.
“We always knew that we could be competitive and were capable of fighting with the traditional frontrunners, as Nico demonstrated once again. He’s got that huge competitive spirit in him and he’s obviously hugely talented.
“It was sad that we encountered some unexpected issues with Checo’s car and that he had to sit out the race, otherwise judging from what Nico did, we could easily have expected a strong double points finish.”
Moving on to Bahrain, Mallya goes into the event hopeful of a good race for both cars. Last year the team finished fourth with Paul di Resta, so have good history at the track.
“I don’t think there will be any surprises. We had a dry race [in Malaysia] and we wanted to see how we would cope with the heat, as that was an important element of the whole car design for this year. We were alright and all our temperatures were within our parameters, so that’s good. In Bahrain it will be similar so we don’t expect any unknowns there and hopefully we’ll have a good race.”
Hulkenberg has been encouraged by the form of his team, and goes into Bahrain riding high after making a two-stop strategy work in Malaysia that earned him a fifth place finish.
“I think the performance in Malaysia was very encouraging, especially because we managed it with a two-stop strategy and nobody else near the front managed that,” said Hulkenberg. “We’ve had two good races and have scored a lot of points already. I think we have a strong foundation and we can now build on that.
I think it will be easier for the tyres and tyre management, which is good for us in the car. I think the aim must be for us to qualify in the top ten again and score some more points.”
“To be honest Bahrain hasn’t been the best place for me and I’ve never had a good result there. So we’re going to change that this year!”
Team-mate Perez was not had a clean race yet this season, having been spun on the first lap by a Sauber-Ferrari in Australia and failing to start altogether in Malaysia. But the Mexican will go into the race knowing he had one of his best showings of the year at the track for McLaren-Mercedes last year.
“Last year I had a good race with McLaren and it was one of my best races,” says Perez. “Also, I won there in GP2. Normally it’s a good track for me, so I’m looking forward to it.
“I feel that we [Sahara Force India] are in good shape, so hopefully we can deliver a strong performance there. If we keep out of trouble, we should have the pace to score points and get our season back on track.
“In turn one there’s normally a lot of overtaking and a lot of action, and with the limited rear grip the cars have these days it will be interesting how we can cope with that.”