Otmar Szafnauer reflected positively on Racing Point Force India F1 Team’s first Qualifying session since they were granted an entry into Formula 1, with Esteban Ocon and Sergio Pérez locking out the second row for the Belgian Grand Prix.
In the summer break, the Sahara Force India F1 Team were saved from administration by a consortium led by Lawrence Stroll, and it saw Szafnauer promoted to team principal, but the mixed conditions at Spa-Francorchamps gave them an outcome they could not have believed would have been possible beforehand.
Ocon equalled his best Qualifying in Formula 1 in third, while Pérez was not too far behind him in fourth as they exceeded all expectations in a rain-affected Q3 that caught out a number of other drivers, particularly as conditions improved as the clock ticked down to zero.
“It’s a very positive result today although we got a bit lucky with some of the decisions we made when the rain came,” said Szafnauer. “We had a quick car, as we saw in Q1 and Q2, but it is also thanks to the good decisions of the engineers that we were able to place both cars so far up the grid.
“At first we gambled on staying out on slicks, hoping the track would be as dry as on the finish straight, but it quickly became obvious this wasn’t the case. We brought both drivers back in, had a good turnaround and we hit the best time to send them out, as the track was improving with every second at the end of Q3.
“Esteban and Sergio still had to deliver the good laps and they did.”
Szafnauer says the positions give Force India a strong starting point on Sunday but there are a few quick cars behind them, particularly Kimi Räikkönen, Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo, as well as Valtteri Bottas who starts at the back of the field following an engine change penalty, but the aim is to score as many points as possible.
“We are in a strong position for tomorrow’s race,” said Szafnauer. “We know there are some very quick cars behind us, but we are going to give everything to bring home a lot of points.”