Force India admits new car needs more work

Sergio Perez (MEX) Sahara Force India F1 VJM11 on the grid.
© XPB 

Force India says that the new VJM11 needs more work in order to recover ground lost to its mid-field rivals over the winter.

Neither Sergio Perez nor Esteban Ocon made it through to the final round of qualifying for the Australian Grand Prix last weekend. And on race day, both drivers finished outside the top ten.

It's the first time Force India has failed to win constructors points since last year's Monaco race. It confirms speculation that the team has fallen back compared with its midfield rivals.

However the team is confident that there's more to come from the car in 2018 and that it will make up some of that deficit in the next few races.

"It will take two to three races to understand the package," said deputy team principal Bob Fernley. "We will have a new wing in Bahrain.

"It's early days in the season," he added. "With twenty races to go there will be plenty of opportunities to develop this car and show our strengths."

"Not everything has arrived yet," technical boss Andy Green told Auto Motor und Sport. "We still have a problem from the apex to the corner exit right now."

Force India have power units supplied by Mercedes. While the German manufacturer has made a big step forward in engine power, Fernley fears that their rivals have made even more progress.

"Compared to Melbourne 2017, the Mercedes teams improved by an average of 1.1 seconds," he said.

"Unfortunately, the Renault teams have improved by 1.6 seconds. And that's exactly who our opponents are."

As well as its own works team, Renault supplies McLaren and Red Bull with power units. These are the teams Fernley sees as most likely to threaten Force India's position in the championship.

"They not only have more money and people than us, but also excellent drivers," he said. "That makes it all the more important that we show the same qualities as last year. Consistency, reliability and good strategy.

Force India were fourth in the standings in the last two seasons, but faces a battle to keep that status in 2018.

"In 2017 we had the fourth fastest car in very few races," Fernley pointed out. "And nevertheless we finished fourth."

Having finished in 11th place in Melbourne, Sergio Perez said he had no doubt about the team's ability to make rapid improvements.

"We will soon be back in a position to fight for points," he said. "Hopefully our improvements will come as early as Bahrain."

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