China 2014 - GP Preview - Force India Mercedes
Vijay, how satisfying was the race in Bahrain?
“I was very pleased to finally achieve that elusive podium. We’ve been close a few times in the last few years, but everything came together perfectly in Bahrain. I think it’s a reflection of the talent and the passion of this team, and the fact that we have excellent teamwork. There’s a great amount of dedication in all areas of the company and a single purpose in mind for everyone. We’re second in the constructors’ championship, which feels pretty special. I know we’ve only had three races, but nevertheless it’s good to be up there. Forty four points out of three races, it’s the dream start we were hoping for.”
Sergio and Nico battled against each other for most of the race – how did it feel to see them racing so close together?
“There were certainly a few anxious moments! I was asked a lot in Bahrain whether there were any team orders, but we preferred to let our drivers race and compete with each other. They both raced hard, but fair. In the final part of the race we saw great teamwork as Nico held back the charging Red Bulls who had the advantage of soft tyres. Ricciardo did eventually get ahead, but Nico helped Checo escape up the road and build a gap. So I was very proud of my drivers; they were outstanding in the race. They both deserved a podium, but in the end it went to Checo. After the tough weekend he had in Malaysia, it’s a great morale boost for him.”
The team travels to China next – can we expect a similar level of performance?
“I think we’ve shown in the first few races that we have produced a competitive car. Bahrain was not just a one-off and we’ve been improving with each race. In Australia we were sixth, in Malaysia fifth and then third and fifth in Bahrain. As I’ve said, it’s our best ever start to a season, which always gives me a great sense of satisfaction, but we won’t sit back; we are always trying to improve. The aim is to repeat the podium, but each race is different and the field is so competitive that it’s impossible to predict. Some tracks will suit us more than others but I want to see us up there fighting towards the front.”
Sergio, it has been a week since your podium in Bahrain, sum up your feelings…
“To get the podium in Bahrain was great. My last podium was a long time ago so to fight at the front again feels good. We knew we were quick and I made sure I grabbed the opportunity with both hands. It’s a great result for this team and a big boost of confidence for me.”
You spent most of the race fighting hard with your teammate and then the Red Bulls in the closing stages…
“It was a really tough race and there was never a moment to relax. It was a big battle with Nico, but I enjoyed it. The end of the race was hard and the safety car really hurt our two-stop strategy. The Red Bulls had the tyre advantage and I was close to losing the podium so I had to push hard to keep up the pace. I think it was a good race for the sport with lots of entertainment.”
Does the podium change your expectations for the upcoming races?
“The target is to move on, keep improving and target more podiums. Bahrain was the first real opportunity I had to develop the car through the weekend without any issues so it felt like my season really started there. Now we need to think about how we can do better in China. At the same time we must not get carried away because we know how competitive Formula One is and how things can change very quickly.”
Nico, you’re third in the drivers’ championship after three races. You must be happy with your best ever start to a season…
“If you had told me during winter testing that I would be in this position I would have taken it straight away. It’s definitely a nice surprise and as a team we have made the most of the opportunities with three consistent weekends. We’ve shown we have a good package and we have the hunger to keep fighting at the front.”
You had some good battles in Bahrain. How enjoyable was the race from the cockpit?
“Given where I started (P11), I was happy to be up there fighting for the podium. I think the key moment was the safety car, which really hurt our race a lot. We had done all our pit stops and I was going really well in fourth place just behind Checo. Then, after the safety car, things became trickier because the pack was bunched up and I had to fight really hard in the final few laps.”
What are you expecting from this weekend’s race in China?
“It’s hard to say for sure. We’ve performed well at all the tracks so far and they all had very different characteristics. So we can feel positive that the car will perform quite well in China. We are going there after the test in Bahrain and hopefully we can bring some more performance too. So I think we can aim for another competitive weekend and come away with some more points.”