Sahara Force India revs up for the season-opener in Melbourne’s Albert Park.
Talking points with Vijay Mallya
VJM: “I always say that Melbourne is a great place to start the season and this year there is so much to be excited about with the new generation of cars making their race debut. It’s interesting for the teams, the media and most importantly, the fans. Let’s hope we put on a great show to kick off the season in style.
“We will race in our new colours for the first time in Melbourne. BWT have given us a very exciting livery and they have generated a huge buzz among the media and fans. The VJM10 looks stunning and it’s great to see such a positive reaction on social media.
“As for our expectations this weekend, it’s still not easy to make predictions – even after eight days of testing in Barcelona. Qualifying on Saturday will give us our first indication of the true pecking order. Testing taught us lot of things and we’ve identified where we can improve, which is exactly why we go testing. We’ve addressed most of those things in time for Melbourne and we’re in good shape.
“The VJM10 is largely reliable and clocked up 785 laps in testing, and we took encouragement from our long run pace. We’ve got to approach the early races believing we can pick up where we left off last year. We arrive in Melbourne feeling optimistic and confident that scoring points is a realistic objective.”
Sergio Perez: Driver’s Eye
Sergio: “The first race of the year is always good fun. We’ve had a long winter to recharge the batteries, but now I just want to go racing again. Australia is the best place to start the season: it’s a great country and I really enjoy going there. There is so much to do in Melbourne and it’s a fun weekend, even if it’s busier than some of the other races.
“It’s important not to get distracted: we want to start well and get back into the race weekend rhythm, and get on with our work. The track itself is quite enjoyable and it’s a challenge to drive because it’s almost a street circuit. It starts the weekend very green and as you go on, you get more grip and more confidence in your new car.
“I am confident we can do well and score points from the first race: Australia is a place where anything can happen and we have seen some very unpredictable races there in the past. You never know what opportunities turn up in a race so you have to be ready at all times to take them.”
Esteban Ocon: Driver’s eye
Esteban: “I am feeling great after a long winter and I’m very excited to go to Melbourne. It will be the first time racing at Albert Park for me, so I do not really know the track, but last year I went there and I liked what I could see. It’s a proper old-school track and those are the sorts of circuit I really enjoy. Of course it’s not easy when you don’t know the track in advance, so it’s especially important to learn quickly in the Friday sessions and listen to the feedback from the engineers - whether it’s where I can be faster or where we can make the car quicker. I think I have all the tools and all the people around me to do that.
“Joining this team has gone very smoothly from my perspective. The team welcomed me and made me feel at ease straight away. I feel very comfortable about the way we work and I feel this will help me give my best in Australia.
“I think we did a good job as a team during winter testing and I also feel confident because of all the simulator work we did over the winter. We continue to push on the simulator and I was at the factory a few days ago doing the final preparation for Melbourne. I was very open to the team – I told them I’d be available at HQ as much as they needed me over the winter and I feel satisfied with the work we’ve done together so far. I think we’re on track to extract everything we can from the car, which is our objective. We’ll go out and do the best we can and see where we are.”
Andrew Green, Technical Director: “As we begin this season, we are still on a very steep learning curve with the VJM10. In terms of data, we are effectively starting from scratch as nearly everything we had from previous years has been set aside. The reality is we've only had a handful of days of testing, on just one track and with consistent temperatures, so there will be a huge amount to discover about the car and the tyres once we get running for real in Australia.
“Melbourne is a temporary street circuit and, as such, there are compromises to be made in the set-up of the car. It’s a circuit that is traditionally hard on brakes, but the biggest challenge will be optimising the tyres. We have never done a race on them; we have never done a race with the VJM10 and therefore there is still a lot to learn. This is not just specific to Australia – the first race could have been anywhere and we’d be facing the same situation, but we’re ready for the challenge.
“Another variable, as always, will be the weather. The climate in Melbourne can be very changeable: it can be very hot or cool down very quickly, especially racing in the late afternoon as we do, so you need to set up the car to take this into account. It’s the start of a new era - new car, new regulation, new tyres. It will be interesting to see how the race pans out - we will be paying particular attention to what we should do to cover the various scenarios that may happen on Sunday.”