The Russian Grand Prix wasn’t a classic race for overtakes, there pretty much weren’t any at all. It destabilises the idea that the new regulations make for better racing momentarily, but whilst that debate continues off-track and Valtteri Bottas’ triumph in Sochi dominates the headlines, Force India have been steadily building momentum.
The result in Sochi was the team’s best result of the year so far, with Sergio Perez finishing 6th and Esteban Ocon securing his best ever result with 7th. Whilst they admit that they weren’t there on pure pace given the retirement of Daniel Ricciardo’s Red Bull and Felipe Massa’s slow puncture, they were ahead of the rest of the midfield and there to pick up the additional points on merit.
Everyone likes an underdog story, and relative to the other teams in F1, Force India is that underdog. The team joined the F1 circus in 2008 with a car that was undoubtedly a back marker. Since, the team have gradually crept up the order and have found successes in a series that’s financial structure has them at a clear disadvantage.
In 2016, Force India beat Williams in the fight to fourth in the Constructors. They amassed 173 points with a budget of $67m, so each point cost the team just over $387,000. Compared to Williams, who scored 138 points with a budget of $87m, their cost per point was a much greater $630,000.
The team have continued to deliver in 2017, and if they bring an upgrade to the Spanish Grand Prix that is of the same magnitude as the B-car that emerged from Catalunya in 2016, then Red Bull will be in the team’s crosshairs in a fight for 3rd.
Esteban Ocon has been particularly impressive so far. Against Sergio Perez, we thought he might be outclassed a bit, not because Ocon’s performances at Manor had been poor, but because Sergio Perez is a true force to be reckoned with and was always going to get the maximum out of the VJM10 this season. It hasn’t been the case, with four consecutive points finishes, the young Frenchman has been holding his own against the Mexican driver in what could be a breakthrough year.
After the Russian Grand Prix, Esteban Ocon said,
“From the mechanics to the engineers, everyone did a great job and we can be proud. I feel there is nothing more we could have extracted from the car: the only negative from the race was a poor start, but I managed to get those positions back before the first lap was over, so it was all good in the end. Finishing in the points in all of the first four races is a great way to start the season and the best I could have hoped for. We are in fourth position going into Barcelona, where we expect some upgrades to be on our car, so we can be confident about the future.”
– Esteban Ocon
Force India are currently 4th in the Constructors standings on 31 points with a clear gap of 13 points to Williams in 5th. Red Bull are 3rd on 57 points, their two DNF’s so far haven’t helped the tally and it is a bigger gap back to Force India in terms of performance. But nobody thought they could beat Williams at this point last season, a lot hinges on the updates in Spain, but the results so far can be considered a perfect start to the pink panthers.