Sahara Force India F1 Team driver Esteban Ocon has hailed the progress made by the team since Australia, which allowed him to qualify in the top ten for the Bahrain Grand Prix.
Force India has endured a difficult start to the season, as it tries to fully understand the new VJM11, and failed to get a car in the top ten or score a point in the season-opener in Melbourne.
However, the new parts brought to Bahrain have boosted performance, allowing the Frenchman to qualify ninth fastest.
Ocon will move up a place to eighth on the grid, following Lewis Hamilton‘s gearbox penalty that demotes the Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport driver from fourth to ninth place.
“I’m feeling pretty pleased with our performance tonight,” said Ocon, who out-qualified team-mate Sergio Perez despite the Mexican running a new front wing.
“We are back in Q3 after a huge effort by the team over the last two weeks. We did a huge amount of work yesterday – testing, learning and understanding things on the car – and we can already see the improvement compared to Melbourne. “
During the three qualifying segments, Ocon improved by just under half-a-second, from a 1m:30.338s in Q1 to a final lap of 1m:29.874s to secure him his eighth place on the grid, after Hamilton’s penalty.
After qualifying fifteenth and finishing twelfth in Melbourne, one place behind Perez each time, Ocon praised the team and said the Q3 appearance was a sign of the ‘strength’ of the Silverstone based outfit.
“It’s a good sign for the future and it shows the strength of this team even when we are under pressure,” said Ocon.
“The car felt strong tonight and I think we are in good shape for tomorrow. Points are the target and we have good straight-line speed and decent race pace.”