The summer has arrived in the 2016 racing season and therefore the fans have to wait almost one month in anticipation to continue enjoying the action. At the same time this is the moment for the teams to evaluate and work hard at their home base on the development of new strategies and evolutionary engineering solutions, which will allow them to return to the second part of the season more competitive as during the first part of the championship.
This time I will talk specifically about the Sahara Force India team, a team that I have supported since its inception. Force India ended last season as the fifth best team in the competition and most probably this rank was also their goal for their 2016 campaign. Of course, with many more technical improvements and the engine development by the hands of its engineers in addition to the good performance of the drivers this is more than possible.
During the first 12 races of this season, the team has been competing within the top 5 of the team ranking, which is a performance that could I already expected based on the pre-season results in Barcelona, where the drivers showed a great performance continuously ended the tests in the Top 10.
April arrived and the season was opened in Australia and straight away the team brought home their first points, although it could not be achieved with both drivers. Nico Hulkenberg crossed the checkered flag in a very good P7 and Sergio Perez ended in P13, which gave us a confident feeling for Bahrain, where in 2014 we reached the podium for the first time in 5 years. However, unfortunately due to a crash this grand prix did not bring us the expected results, the same thing happened in China, where the safety car was possibly the main factor for not driving home any points. Of course, the road to perfection is long and we should always learn and improve. Especially, learning how to manage the tires is a key to improve race rhythm, and Sergio Perez seems to have a lot of experience and skills in this regards. And so, in Russia he managed to bring his first personal points to the team in addition to a lot of motivation for not only himself, but also the team as a whole. Unfortunately this faith was not granted to Hulkenberg, who after another incident with Gutierrez had to retire in the first lap and thus ending his 100th GP in vain.
Barcelona was prepared to host one of the sport’s most enjoyable events for the fans. Checo Perez finished the race in P7 to give us new points in the standings, but good fortune again closed the door to Nico, who in the midst of a fire had to retire when his medium compound was only 10 laps old.
Monaco indisputably encouraged everyone to finish the race, with both drivers finishing in the top 10. A first podium of the season for Checo Perez when he finished P3 and Nico was reconciled with the points and closed the weekend in P6.
Again our boys scored unexpected points in Canada, Nico crossed the checkered flag in P8 which shows his hunger for more. For Checo Perez, the race resulted in P10, despite Canada not being the best circuit for a weekend with good results.
Baku, another podium and more points. This is how we can summarize the Grand Prix of Europe, strengthening our 5th position in the constructors ranking in the championship so far, proving that both the team and the drivers have the potential to improve even further.
With several impressive lap times during qualification at the Austrian Grand Prix, Hulk showed that he can achieve very good results on a wet track bringing back memories of his impressive pole position in the Grand Prix of Brazil 2010 (which I witnessed in person). Unfortunately, he was unable to finish the Austrian Grand Prix and had to withdraw in lap 65 when the track proved to challenging for his car. Meanwhile, Checo Perez finished his race in the barriers in the final lap, due to brake problems, which was very unfortunate given his great performance during the race with many take overs.
Even though Austria was a deception, the F1 calendar does not wait and therefore there was no other way then to face the truth and learn from the experience, so time to go to Silverstone …
This race had a very good start for our drivers which both making it to Q3 qualification. The race itself was also very successful, with our drivers Nico and Checo finishing P6 and P7 respectively, achieving the best recorded result for Force India in the British GP ever. Although it was not an easy race, a successful strategy was adopted, resulting in a lot of confidence about the development and potential of our team, drivers and car.
Continuing from Britain, Red flags and a very wet track did not stop Hulk, who like a black swan in a pool of white swans bit himself and remained into the top 10 during qualifying at the Hungarian Grand Prix. Despite not having the same conditions on Sunday in addition to being forced in between the rookies after the start, an easy race was not foreseen. However, despite some difficulties, both drivers managed to drive into the points, again proving the potential.
Good teamwork and consistency in handling the car made Perez recover and finish in the points. And Nico, just when informed that a few drops of rain were witnessed, immediately reacted and passed the Williams of Bottas, successfully crossing the line in a pleasant P7, as if the rain gave him special powers and by that sealing his position in the German GP only behind Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari.
This story will continue
With a remaining 8 races, and so far having done an excellent job, the team has managed to grow and address the few problems which it encountered. Despite a small team budget and some financial challenges, we have achieved very good results. Checo Perez is demonstrating self-confidence, maturity and growth from which we can benefit a lot, and Nico, even though he had more problems, he showed to have his ¨black swan¨ mentality reserved for rainy days, which he can also utilise more in all conditions. The team has scored points in 9 out of 12 races and despite the absurd sanctions by the FIA, we are still in the position to finish 4th in the overall team standings by the end of the season.
They should thus continue as they were doing, with every little improvement reflecting in the results every weekend. Unity and consistency have proven to be a great asset of the team. Focus should remain on taking care of every little detail, like managing Pirelli and avoiding catching the eyes of the FIA and especially staying away from GUTIERREZ! And of course continue with letting the circuits ¨Feel The Force¨!