Force India team principal Vijay Mallya says Sergio Perez’s podium in the Azerbajian Grand Prix “feels like a turning point” in his team’s season.
After introducing a major update to its launch car at the first race in Australia, Force India struggled with correlation issues between its simulations and the track and scored just one point in the opening three rounds. The car was significantly more competitive in Baku, however, and Perez duly delivered an impressive third place at the end of a chaotic race.
“Baku feels like a turning point in our season,” Mallya said. “The podium has given us a huge boost and is just the result we needed. It helps us forget about the bad luck and missed opportunities from the first few races.
“Our speed in Baku confirms we are moving in the right direction. We understand the car more and we are taking steps forward at each race. With the podium it feels as though our season is up and running. We now have some momentum behind us. Let’s see what we can do in Barcelona where we will have more new parts to try on the car.”
Perez himself sees similarities in the team’s start to the 2016 season, when Force India had only scored 14 points from the opening five rounds before he finished third in Monaco while teammate Nico Hulkenberg was sixth, kickstarting its successful challenge for fourth in the constructors’ championship.
“Finishing on the podium in Baku felt amazing,” Perez said. “After a few tough races we finally got a result we deserved. It reminded me of 2016, when we had a difficult start to the season and then we had the podium in Monaco.
“We were quick in Baku right from the start and we knew there was the chance to score a great result. I’m so proud of my team and the way we did it. Even when we had to pit on lap one, we didn’t stop fighting or stop believing.”
Despite his optimism, Perez warns Force India will need to maximize its one-lap pace to score another strong result in Spain, with the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya notoriously not conducive to overtaking.
“Barcelona was our best result as a team last year so you never know what can happen this year. It’s a track we know really well because of testing, but of course the car has changed a lot since the pre-season and it will be interesting to feel the difference the upgrades have made. Unlike in Baku, overtaking is quite difficult at Barcelona so we will need to be perfect in qualifying.”