Sahara Force India F1 Team scored their first podium of 2018 at last weekend’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix, and Chief Operating Officer Otmar Szafnauer sees this as the proof of the progress the team has made from a relatively slow start to the season.
Sergio Pérez came back from contact and damage on the opening lap to take third place from Sebastian Vettel in the closing moments of what was a characteristically chaotic race around the Baku Street Circuit. The Mexican was even hit with a five-second penalty, but Szafnauer attributes Pérez’s strong drive and a good strategy as the reasons that they were able to overcome this.
Conversely, Esteban Ocon suffered only his second retirement of his Formula 1 career, making contact with Kimi Räikkönen on lap one. Szafnauer was understandably disappointed with the outcome, but can still see the positives of the Frenchman’s pace, and is sure that he would have gone on to score much-needed points for the team as well.
“We have been quick all weekend and it’s very satisfying to convert our potential into solid points,” he said.
“Sergio drove a remarkable race, recovering from damage on lap one to snatch the podium finish from Sebastian [Vettel] with just three laps to go. He did everything we asked of him and the strategy was spot on, even allowing us to recover from a five seconds penalty. This result is down to a tremendous team effort and feels all the more enjoyable after a difficult start to the season and some unlucky races.
“Of course, it was disappointing to lose Esteban on lap one when he was taken out by Raikkonen because he would surely have scored points as well.”
He feels the result is the motivation the team needed going into the European leg of the season which next heads to Barcelona for the Spanish Grand Prix.
“The result gives us a nice boost as we return to Europe and shows just how much progress we have made over the last month to bring performance to the car.”