Force India failed to score points in last fortnight’s Australian Grand Prix, but the team’s Chief Operating Officer, Otmar Szafnauer, is confident that this underperformance was not representative of the team’s “true performance.”
2018 marks the first season since 2009 that Force India failed to score points in the opening round of a Formula 1 season. Their disappointing P11 and P12 finishes were made worse as McLaren and Renault, two of Force India’s closest rivals, both recorded double points finishes.
“Testing showed us that the midfield has closed up considerably,” Szafnauer admitted in a statement ahead of this weekend’s Bahrain Grand Prix. “I think the points will be spread among the teams more evenly this year and retaining fourth place is going to be a big task.”
Force India has remained as the dominant midfield team since the 2016 season, having recorded P4 in the Constructors World Championship for the last two seasons. “Our goal is to defend our fourth place and we will be fighting hard to get back up there,” Szafnauer said.
He absolutely believes that goal is achievable, and urged that Force India’s performance in the Australian Grand Prix shouldn’t be used as a marker of their pace. “[W]e’ve only had one race and things can change very quickly in Formula One,” he said to defend the team’s underperformance.
“The race pace was stronger than our qualifying speed,” Szafnauer felt. As he later explained, this hindered the team considerably in Melbourne because it was “especially difficult” to overtake on the Albert Park circuit, making track position during the race more paramount than usual.
Szafnauer also expects upgrades to play a major part of Force India’s pace resurgence in the upcoming Bahrain Grand Prix. “We’ve got a new front wing coming for Bahrain,” he revealed, “which will complement the upgrades we introduced in Melbourne.”
“There is huge development potential with this new aerodynamic platform and we have things in the pipeline,” remarked Szafnauer. Development was a strength of Force India in 2017 as they consistently kept themselves at the top of the midfield throughout the entire season, a fact Szafnauer eluded too in his statement.
“The development race is only just beginning and it’s where you end the season that counts,” he pointed out. Force India driver, Sergio Perez, echoed these thoughts, adding in his pre-Bahrain statement, “The development race will be very intense this year.”
Perez also said, “we’ve got to be targeting points this weekend” – a goal which was also reinforced by Force India’s owner, Vijay Mallya.
The Bahrain Grand Prix will be the second race of the 2018 Formula 1 season. It’s set to take place under lights, at 6:10pm on Sunday, April 8th.