Force India is confident its 2018 car has “huge development potential” after introducing an upgrade at the Australian Grand Prix.
The team launched a fairly basic specification of car during pre-season testing that it then updated in Melbourne last weekend, but found itself just outside the points at the end of the race. Sergio Perez was attacking Carlos Sainz for 10th place but could not find a way past, resulting in Force India’s first scoreless race since Monaco last year.
Despite the underwhelming start to the season for last year’s fourth-placed team, chief operating officer Otmar Szafnauer says Force India is in the early stages of understanding its upgraded car and will keep developing it heavily in the coming races.
“It’s business as usual in terms of developing the car,” Szafnauer said. “We’ve got a new front wing coming for Bahrain, which will complement the upgrades we introduced in Melbourne. The car we have now is totally different from the spec we used during testing and we’re still on a learning curve.
“There is huge development potential with this new aerodynamic platform and we have things in the pipeline, which will bring performance steps in the first quarter of the season.”
Szafnauer believes it remains a realistic target to finish fourth in the constructors’ championship again this year, citing last year’s development rate as the reason for his confidence.
“Testing showed us that the midfield has closed up considerably, so there were no big shocks in Melbourne. 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. But we’ve only had one race and things can change very quickly in Formula 1.
“The development race is only just beginning and it’s where you end the season that counts. Last year we out-developed the teams around us and we have to do the same this year. Our goal is to defend our fourth place and we will be fighting hard to get back up there.”