They’re probably heading into 2017 as Mercedes’ strongest customer. Whilst Williams revealed strong potential with Felipe Massa’s 6th place finish in Melbourne, Force India have two drivers capable of scoring regular points from the start, with Perez finishing 7th and Ocon 10th.
That isn’t to say that Lance Stroll will struggle throughout the season, the evidence of the opening race shows that he isn’t on terms with his teammate yet, and probably needs a bit more time to acclimatise. Sergio Perez is a proven Formula One driver who has well and truly reverted any doubts about his ability following the darkest chapter of his F1 career when he was scapegoated by McLaren. The Mexican is in that underrated bracket of Formula One driver alongside Carlos Sainz. Meanwhile, Esteban Ocon’s first points of his career will spur him onto greater things in Shanghai. Their decision to select the promising Frenchman over Pascal Wehrlein has been validated beyond recent circumstance.
Sergio Perez has confirmed that the striking livery of the Force India isn’t the only thing that will be new to the car in the upcoming races. He said,
“The upgrades we have coming during the next couple of races should help. It’s about improving the overall balance of the car.
The seventh place in Melbourne represents my best ever start to a season with this team and I have a good feeling for the races to come. In the last few years we’ve shown that we can develop the car well and that’s going to be especially important this year. We’ve already made a big step forward since pre-season testing.”
– Sergio Perez
Checo’s ability to nurture his tyres without expensing pace may also help him this season despite the much lower degradation the new Pirelli’s yield. When he’s trailing another car ahead, his smoothness on the tyres around the rest of a lap may allow him a larger window in which to go on the attack.
— Sahara Force India (@ForceIndiaF1) April 6, 2017
There’s a chance that Red Bull could be in Force India’s crosshairs if the VJM10 is a good enough chassis to keep the RB13 in sight for the opening two sectors. With the long straight in sector three and the DRS available too, we could see the Renault-powered Red Bull getting caught by the Mercedes-powered Force India heading into turn fourteen.
Perez is a proven podium finisher, and if the updates work in the next few races, you wouldn’t bet against him being the guy ready to pounce if the top four cars fall foul of strategy or attrition.