The Sahara Force India team looks set to be on the fringes of the top half of the field, a rather expected reflection of its position in the pecking order given the near non-existent pre-season running it has had with its Mercedes-powered VJM08.
Drivers Nico Hülkenberg and Sergio Pérez again racked up plenty of mileage in their new cars during Friday practice at the season-opening Australian Grand Prix. Hülkenberg posted a fastest lap of 1:30.473 with 49 laps of running across the two sessions, while Pérez tallied 54 laps, finishing half-a-second slower than his teammate in the final reckoning.
Both drivers’ longer runs were particularly consistent and on par with the times shown by the Lotus E23 Hybrid, but the principal concern for both drivers was in finding a set-up that would work for both Saturday’s qualifying and Sunday’s race.
“The long run performance was pretty good, especially the feeling and confidence I had with the car. So the balance is okay; it’s just that we need to find some more performance, especially over a single lap. With almost 50 laps today I think we are quite well prepared going into the weekend,” Hülkenberg said afterwards.
Pérez, who has had just one day of pre-season testing mileage in the new car, admitted he had more work to do.
“We were able to achieve the objectives and hit our targets in terms of mileage – so that’s positive. We did a lot of work with both the soft and medium tyre compounds, and I think we’ve already got a good understanding of how they perform,” he said.
“In terms of my feeling with the car, there is still a lot to improve, but it’s the first day of the season and the first chance I’ve had to do proper performance work. There is a lot we need to learn from the data and a lot of decisions to be taken tonight.”
“Both cars ran reliably today and we were able to make good progress through our job list,” the team’s chief operating officer, Otmar Szafnauer, added.
“We did some aero testing this morning, making comparisons between the two cars, which proved useful as we continue to learn about the VJM08. The drivers were happy with the general balance and we made some improvements during the day. The main focus was on our long run performance and we’ve got a pretty good read on where we stand relative to our competitors. For tonight we need to concentrate on further data analysis to make sure we extract the most from the cars on Saturday and especially Sunday.”
Images via Sahara Force India Formula One Team