Patience and consistency key to Force India progress

by Rachel Hack

The Sahara Force India F1 Team enjoyed their best ever campaign in F1 history, when they finished fourth in the constructor’s championship in 2016, and Chief Operating Officer Otmar Szafnauer believes this is down to the virtue of patience and being in it for the long haul.

The Silverstone based squad have improved year on year since starting out in the sport back in 2008, with only the 2012 season breaking that mould, when they dropped from sixth the previous year to seventh. From that season on however, they have gone from strength to strength.

Szafnauer puts the key to their success down to long-term stability and ensuring consistent progression, such as continuing with Mercedes as their engine supplier since 2009, and having drivers Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg on their books from 2014, as he explained to recently.

“The building blocks have been put in place for the last five or six years – it’s not something that happens overnight.

“We’ve been working towards having a better team and a more performant car for a good six years and there’s a lot that goes in it: good decision-making, having the right tools and the right people, having the right engine partner – thanks for that, Toto [Wolff] – but also understanding the tires, and an aerodynamically efficient car.

“You’ve got to do all those things and then the performance comes. Not to mention two good drivers.”

The 2017 season however, will see them break that strong driver partnership, with Hulkenberg leaving to join the Renault Sport Formula 1 Team, and the highly-rated Esteban Ocon, who Force India know well from his numerous test sessions with the squad, coming in to replace him.

It was that familiarity, that Szafnauer says swung the seat in the Frenchman’s favour over Manor Racing MRT team-mate Pascal Wehrlein and others.

“Well, we deliberated long and hard. We know Esteban and that helps.

“We ran him in two different tests and we were impressed with both his speed and his ability to learn, and also with his attitude to racing and his attitude towards learning.

“We thought he was a good fit for us and that’s why we chose him over some of the others.”

The Silverstone based squad will be hoping to continue on that upward spiral in 2017, and are confident of producing similar performance levels to last year, if not one step better.

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