By Joey Barnes, Editor-in-Chief
Sahara Force India opened up the 2018 Formula 1 season with a less than ideal start after failing to score a single point at the Australian Grand Prix.
The outing marks the first time since Monaco last year that the team failed to score within the top 10.
Sergio Perez started 12th for his eighth career race at Albert Park, but struggled to work his way up the field. The 28-year-old Mexican ended the day 11th.
“It was quite an unlucky weekend for us, but there are still positives to take from this race,” said Perez.
“We came close to bringing home a point although it was just out of reach. I was pushing throughout the whole race and especially chasing [Carlos] Sainz in the final laps. I got really close to him, but it wasn’t enough.
“Overtaking in Melbourne is very difficult – you could see the same with [Valtteri] Bottas who couldn’t pass me during the first stint. The Virtual Safety Car also didn’t help us at all, but that’s just how things go sometimes. I am still happy with my performance and the job we did as a team. We will need to move on and keep improving, but I believe we will soon be in a position to battle for points.
“Hopefully our improvements will come as early as Bahrain. It’s a race where you can overtake and strategy plays a bigger part compared to Melbourne.”
For Esteban Ocon, the day began from 14th on the grid. The 21-year-old Frenchman would encounter an equally difficult afternoon in Melbourne, finishing 12th just behind his teammate.
“Not an easy race today,” said Ocon.
“It was very difficult to overtake and even though I managed to jump ahead of Lance [Stroll] on the first lap, everybody quickly spread out until the safety car. I had a fight with Bottas for a while and after the safety car restart I was close to making a move on Sergio.
“We certainly had better race pace compared to our qualifying pace, but we are just missing some performance to be up there in the top ten at the moment. Things can turn around quickly in Formula One and we will keep pushing over the next two weeks to bring something extra to Bahrain.”
Bob Fernley, Deputy Director of the Silverstone-based squad, put the efforts on a lack of pace with the VJM11.
“Ultimately we didn’t have the pace this weekend to fight in the top 10 and so we’ve ended our day on the cusp of the points,” said Fernley.
“It’s early days in the season and with twenty races to go there will be plenty of opportunities to develop this car and show our strengths. As I said yesterday, we’re on a learning curve with the developments we introduced this weekend and there’s more in the pipeline for Bahrain. Both drivers drove well today, but the luck didn’t play into our hands with the timing of the safety car, for example.
“Following other cars closely was tough and Sergio was right on the tail of Sainz in the final few laps but there was no way to overtake. We will work hard to be stronger at the next race in Bahrain.”