While neither Force India made it beyond the second qualifying hurdle, the team’s drivers, Nico Hülkenberg and Sergio Pérez, are confident that the outfit can challenge for points in Sunday’s Australian Grand Prix.
Having had just three days’ pre-season running in the new VJM08 before this weekend, it was no surprise that both drivers failed to make it into the final phase of qualifying; Hülkenberg qualified 14th-fastest in Q2, one-thousandth of a second faster than 15th-placed Pérez.
“It was quite a difficult qualifying session and the windy conditions seemed to have a big impact on our car. In terms of performance, I think we are where we predicted because we knew Q2 was achievable and we managed to get the maximum from the car,” Pérez said after qualifying.
“For tomorrow, we know this is a race where anything can happen: it’s unpredictable and sometimes you have to be patient. We need to see what the weather is like because the wind and track temperature will play a big part. Whatever happens, I will work hard to have a competitive race and target some points.”
“We always want to be further up the grid, but being realistic I don’t think we had the performance today to challenge for Q3,” Hülkenberg added.
“However, it’s only the first qualifying session of the season, so it’s still very early days and we have a lot of development work ahead of us. I enjoyed the qualifying session today: it was good fun out there and I felt comfortable in the car, and as a team we squeezed everything we could from the session.
“For tomorrow, I’m optimistic that our race pace will be stronger than our qualifying pace, as was often the case last year, so I’m looking forward to the race.”
Team Principal Vijay Mallya was bullish about his squad’s prospects this weekend, and cited the team’s history of delivering strong race performances as a reason to be confident.
“Having two cars in Q2 is an encouraging sign after a challenging pre-season and it is testament to the hard work everyone in the team has put in during the winter months. To have Nico and Checo within a thousandth of a second of each other shows that they really pushed the car to its limit. The midfield appears to be very close, with a very small margin between six or seven cars so I expect a very interesting race tomorrow. Traditionally our race pace has been a strength so hopefully we can take the fight to the cars ahead of us.”
Images via Sahara Force India Formula One Team