Force India chief operating officer Otmar Szafnauer believes his team is 0.3-0.4s off the front of the midfield at this start of the new Formula 1 season.
Having secured back-to-back fourth-place finishes in the constructors’ championship, Force India is targeting a repeat performance this season but started the year without a point in the Australian Grand Prix. Both McLaren and Renault scored double-points finishes in Melbourne, but Szanfauer believes the gap to those teams is small enough to close in the coming races.
“Having watched the lap times [in Australia] I think from the top of the midfield we’re three or four tenths away,” Szafnauer said. “There were times when we were lapping at the same pace as [Fernando] Alonso who was running in fifth and we were running 11th, and we were consistently around the same pace.
“I believe that we are a couple of tenths away. It’s not that far.”
Force India introduced the first part of a major upgrade package in Australia, meaning the team was still trying to exploit its potential as the weekend progressed.
Asked if the car’s current configuration could bridge the gap to the front of the midfield – or requires further upgrades – technical director Andy Green replied: “I think there’s more to come out of this package, but ultimately it will come with upgrades that we will be bringing to the next few events.
“I think the weekend is a pretty good judge. You get tested on Saturday and you get tested again on Sunday. We know where we are, we know the limitations of the car now and we know the relative performance of our direct competition, so I think we’ve got a very clear idea of how much we need to improve and where we need to improve. It’s all very good information for us.”
The result in Melbourne was only the second time Force India has failed to score at least one point in the past 33 races, stretching back to the 2016 Austrian Grand Prix.