MIDSEASON REVIEW: 2018 FIA Formula 1 World Championship – Sahara Force India F1 Team


Force India - Formula One World Championship - Hungarian Grand Prix - Qualifying Day - Budapest, Hungary
Credit: Sahara Force India Formula One Team

Sahara Force India F1 Team entered the 2018 FIA Formula 1 World Championship with high ambition after achieving a strong fourth place with Sergio Pérez and Esteban Ocon.

SEASON SUMMARY

Sergio Pérez and Esteban Ocon retained their seats for the 2018  after a strong 2017 season, despite the pairing having collided into each other on multiple occasions. The year started poorly for the team in Australia, as the VJM11 struggled against its rivals, finishing outside the points. Ocon grabbed the team’s first point of the year in Bahrain with tenth place but their pace was slow compare to last year.

However, at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, Perez was able to grab a surprising podium with third place after the failures of Valtteri Bottas and Sebastian Vettel helped the Mexican. The podium gave the team momentum as they racked up more points finishes over the following races, with Ocon claiming an impressive sixth place in the streets of Monte-Carlo. Both Perez and Ocon had a strong run between Austria and Germany by finishing in the middle of the points paying positions.

At the Hungarian Grand Prix, the team announced that they were going into administration after multiple unpaid creditors took the team into court. The future of Force India was secured however with the help of Lawrence Stroll, Lance Stroll‘s father, buying the team and saving all 405 jobs in the process. Force India currently lie sixth overall with 59 points to their name.

11 | Sergio Pérez | POINTS: 30 | POSITION: 10TH | BEST RESULT: 3RD (X1)

Motor Racing - Formula One World Championship - Azerbaijan Grand Prix - Race Day - Baku, Azerbaijan
Credit: Sahara Force India Formula One Team

Sergio Pérez won the ‘best of the rest’ status last year ahead of team-mate Ocon and will be looking to retain that as the midfield pack starts to bunch up. It was a tricky start for the season for the Mexican, who is now in his eighth season of F1, after failing to score in the opening three races of the season. The VJM11 seemed it was off the pace compare to its predecessor.

The Azerbaijan Grand Prix was the race that kick started not only Pérez’s season, but also the team. Having sat in the middle of the points scoring positions, Pérez found himself in contention for a podium spot as Scuderia Ferrari‘s Sebastian Vettel locked up heavily when attacking Valtteri Bottas. Pérez was able to capitalise on the slow Ferrari and moved into the podium contention, when Bottas suffered his tyre failure. Pérez scored his and the team’s first podium since the 2016 Azerbaijan Grand Prix.

Pérez would score again in the next round in Spain with ninth place, but wouldn’t get back into the points until the Austrian Grand Prix where he would go on a three race scoring run with seventh, tenth place in Silverstone and seventh in Germany which helped him to tenth overall in the drivers’ championship, tied on points with Carlos Sainz Jr.

The Mexican was involved behind the scenes at Force India as he pushed for the team to go into administration by the high court in order to save the team. If it wasn’t for Pérez’s movement in the courts, the team may not been saved by Lawrence Stroll and the other buyers.

Whilst Pérez may not have had the season like last year, we have seen glimpses of his talent and performances we’ve seen for the last eight seasons. The VJM11 has been a tricky car on track and with the lack of upgrades provided by the team, has been hard to perform. His podium in the streets of Baku was the race that has helped Pérez push up in the championship, with half of his points coming from that race alone.

It’s uncertain what the future lies for Pérez with the team for 2019. He’s proven himself to be a driver for the future but with the new owners coming into the team, it could decide his future. Pérez has admitted he has offers from other teams if he chooses not to stay with Force India for next year but for now, Pérez will be aiming to rack up more points as he aims to remain in the top ten.

31 | ESTEBAN OCON | POINTS: 29 | POSITION: 12TH | BEST RESULT: 6TH (X2)

Esteban Ocon - Formula One World Championship - French Grand Prix - Preparation Day - Paul Ricard, France
Credit: Sahara Force India Formula One Team

After a successful first full season in F1, Ocon will be hoping to clinch his first ever podium by the end of the year and impress the bosses at Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport. After missing out on the points in Australia, Ocon was able to kick start Force India’s points tally with tenth at the Bahrain Grand Prix.

His race in Azerbaijan was cut short after an opening lap collision with Kimi Raikkonen sent him into the barrier. Another retirement soon followed at the Spanish Grand Prix but at Monaco, he achieved his best result in the season with sixth place. His home race at Paul Ricard ended on the first lap when making contact with fellow Frenchman Pierre Gasly. Like Pérez, Ocon went on a three consecutive points scoring run with another sixth place result at the Austrian Grand Prix. He followed that up with seventh at Silverstone and eighth in Germany.

Ocon currently lies twelfth overall in the championship standings, one point away from equaling his team-mate’s points tally from the season. Like Perez, Ocon has found the VJM11 a bit of a handful compare to last year’s car. Ocon has showcased what he can and has proven that he is a future talent, waiting to be placed at a top team. Whether it’ll come or not, that’s the question.

Ocon’s future at the team is in question since he was linked to a move to rivals Renault Sport Formula One Team, before Daniel Ricciardo announced he was joining the team. This leaves Ocon in trouble as his seat at Force India is in doubt with Lance Stroll’s father saving the team, meaning it’ll be very likely he’ll take one of the seats. Time will tell what the future lies for the Frenchman.

Sergio Perez - Force India - Formula One World Championship - Austrian Grand Prix - Practice Day - Spielberg, Austria
Credit: Sahara Force India Formula One Team

Force India have not delivered the same performances and consistency from 2017 into this year, but they’ve finally achieved a podium finish. Something that they failed to do last year. Whilst the VJM11 has been a handful and the lack of upgrades has not helped Perez and Ocon, they have performed well during the middle stage of the season.

The team’s future looks secured with the help of Lawrence Stroll but their line up for the 2019 season be an interesting talking point and whether either Ocon or Pérez will keep their seat. With Stroll’s funding, the team can now afford to bring upgrades to the car for the second stage of the season as they aim to break into the top five in the constructors championship.