Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez have high expectations for Force India’s upgrade package that the team will run at the Australian Grand Prix, having launched a less-developed car than its rivals for testing.
Force India has secured fourth place in the constructors’ championship in each of the past two seasons but is facing uncertainty over its future ownership, with an expected team name change being delayed while potential takeover talks are ongoing.
From a car updates point of view, the team opted to hold back the introduction of many components until the opening round in Melbourne to allow maximum development time, and Ocon says that is when it will start focusing on performance.
“The car was OK to drive [during testing], but we were not looking for performance at the time,” Ocon said. “We were just looking for a way of working and finding a way to go. We improved it a lot during the winter. Now we have an all new package coming for the race. We expect a lot from it, and we’ll see where we are performance-wise.”
Perez shares Ocon’s optimism, but says the two drivers will have a lot of work to do during the weekend to understand how the car behaves as a result of the changes.
“We have plenty of hope for our new package that we’re going to introduce for this weekend,” Perez said. “So basically we’re really hoping for that.
“It’s going to be a different game to Barcelona. We were struggling so much for tire temperature, different issues that we had in Barcelona. Coming into Melbourne, it’s a different circuit, different compounds, different fuel levels, everything. It’s going to be a whole new challenge. But I’m really optimistic for this year. I’m hoping that after testing that we identify our points to work on. I think we can be in good shape.”
With the Force India pair clashing on track on multiple occasions last season – leading to the team employing team orders for a spell – Perez admits he and Ocon cannot afford a repeat in the face of stiff midfield competition.
“We had a couple of incidents last year. I think we learned – we came out on top of that with the team. Towards the end of the year there was a good atmosphere; we were working well together. I think that’s the priority for us.
“We’re going to be really competitive and very close pretty much the whole season, but the most important thing is that we push the team forwards, especially now the competition is really high. I think we’re working well and we have to keep the same working relationship that we had towards the end of the year.”