The Sahara Force India team are hopeful for a strong weekend at Monza as Formula 1 arrives in Italy. Both Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez scored points last time out in Belgium after a disappointing qualifying session for both in the tricky wet conditions, but both the German and the Mexican are confident heading into Monza that this weekend will be better.
Hulkenberg was unhappy with his result in Belgium, with his disappointing qualifying session, when he failed to make it through the first part of qualifying, making the race far more difficult. He was happy in the end to take a point home for tenth, but felt he should have had a better result.
“It was a mixed weekend,” reflected Hulkenberg. “We had good pace, but we couldn’t achieve the maximum because of the mistakes in qualifying. The race was interesting; we made up a lot of positions, but we also lost some time battling our way through the traffic. In the end, we got one point and that’s better than nothing.”
The German is looking forward to getting back out on track this weekend in Italy, and feels the team should be more competitive around the Monza track than they were at Spa-Francorchamps.
“It’s a fantastic weekend and I really enjoy everything about the event: the town, the people and the track,” said Hulkenberg. “The atmosphere is just brilliant with the energy of the fans and the history of the place. It’s also a fun track to drive. It looks simple, but hooking up a quick lap is still a challenge and it’s easy to make mistakes.
“I expect us to be quite competitive there. It should be better for us than Spa. It’s all about power and top speed and we know the engine will be strong. We also have a new low downforce rear wing that we will use for Monza only. Braking from top speed for the chicanes with a skinny rear wing is always tricky.”
Team-mate Perez was happy to score points at Spa-Francorchamps for the first time in his Formula 1 career last time out, and feels the team should be aiming for scoring points with both drivers for each of the remaining eight races of the season.
“We had to score points to keep in touch with the teams ahead of us in the championship so we went quite aggressive in the race – flat out all the way,” said Perez. “It was a nice feeling to score my first points at Spa because I love the track. Getting two cars in the points is the target for all the races to come.”
Perez holds Monza in high regard after taking a runners-up spot back in 2012 at the track while driving for the Sauber team, and feels the circuit can be a strong one for his current employers this year.
“It’s another favourite of mine,” insists Perez. “I think everybody enjoys going there because it’s such a beautiful location. I raced there a few times before Formula One and always had good results. I was on the podium two years ago – it was one of my best races in Formula One and a very special memory.
“I think it’s going to be a good track for us. It’s important to qualify in the top ten to have a chance of scoring good points. It’s difficult to overtake at Monza and if you are out of position it’s hard to recover.”
Team Principal and Managing Director Dr Vijay Mallya reflected on Spa-Francorchamps, feeling that the team should have scored more points than they ultimately ended up with had they qualified better.
“It was promising to return after the summer break with some points, although fewer than we would have probably deserved based on our pace,” said Mallya. “Both Checo and Nico showed a lot of fighting spirit to make up several positions from their grid slots and we were able to get five points as a reward. We could have possibly been a few more places ahead had we not started so far back.
“We’re now sixth in the standings and coming away from Spa with five points was a good exercise in damage limitation. It means we are only two points away from fifth place with all to play for in the coming races. With the double points in Abu Dhabi, too, the battle is likely to remain open for us until the final race.”
Mallya is in agreement with his drivers that the Monza circuit should suit the Force India car, and is hopeful both Hulkenberg and Perez can perform to their best ability.
“The Italian Grand Prix is always a great event and this circuit is legendary,” insists Mallya. “It is also one that should suit our car, with long straights and an emphasis on power. Both Checo and Nico have had good results here in the past and will hopefully do the same this year.”