The Sahara Force India team endured a tough and frustrating day at Spa-Francorchamps, with neither Sergio Perez nor Nico Hulkenberg managing to take advantage of their Mercedes power unit in the difficult damp conditions. Perez qualified down in thirteenth, but Hulkenberg struggled and will start eighteenth.
Perez was the only Force India driver to make it through to the second part of qualifying, but admitted to struggling in the wet conditions throughout the session. He is more optimistic about the race on Sunday, feeling the long run pace is much stronger than the qualifying pace.
“It was not the easiest day for us,” admitted Perez. “I was struggling in the wet conditions and that was the main issue today. I wanted to be further up but we did not maximise everything.
“I’m feeling more optimistic for tomorrow and we should have strong race pace. P13 is not a bad place to start the race and I’m sure we can move forward and make up some positions.”
Team-mate Hulkenberg failed to get through into the second part of qualifying after gambling on staying on the same set of intermediate tyres for the whole session, something the German feels could have cost him the chance of progressing into Q2. He will be hoping that his race pace will be stronger so to be able to make up some positions and try and score points.
“It was a difficult session in tricky conditions,” said Hulkenberg. “Initially it was looking good; I was on the pace and we chose to stay out on one set of intermediates for the whole session. Maybe that was a factor in missing out on Q2 because my tyres were quite old and worn by the end of the session. Q2 should still have been possible, but I made mistakes on my last two laps and out-braked myself going into the final corner, went wide and lost time.
“For the race tomorrow I believe we can recover because we’ve got a solid car and the long run pace in the dry yesterday looked promising.”
Deputy Team Principal Robert Fernley was disappointed with the result of qualifying, insisting the team should have seen both drivers much higher up on the grid. He knows that both Hulkenberg and Perez will need to work hard to make up positions, but feels the race pace should be much better than what was seen in qualifying.
“It was a wet qualifying session and I think we ended up well short of the positions our pace should have warranted,” said Fernley. “Conditions were very difficult for everyone and we were unlucky to lose Nico so early. Checo did a good job to reach Q2, but as the track became more and more slippery at the end of the session he was unable to improve his time enough to make it into the top ten.
“We will have a big job on our hands to get both cars in the points tomorrow, but the indications we have seen yesterday show we have a good race pace. The weather can once again play a big role so we will need to be ready to maximise every opportunity we may get.”