Vijay Mallya has set his Force India team the ambitious target of leading the midfield battle in Shanghai this weekend, following a successful points-scoring debut for the VJM10 in Melbourne:
“I was proud of our performance in Australia,” Mallya said. “Sergio and Esteban were in the thick of the action and both drivers took their opportunities to overtake. To leave Melbourne with both cars in the top ten was a tremendous team effort.”
Referring to the seventh and tenth place finishes for Pérez and Ocon respectively as “an important boost”, Mallya said that the team is expecting a similar performance in this Sunday’s Chinese Grand Prix, although he has admitted it will be no easy task to keep ahead of the “exceptionally close” midfield fight.
If Force India can take another double points finish on Sunday, it will be a vast improvement on last year’s Shanghai meet, in which Pérez just missed out on a point in eleventh, and Nico Hülkenberg came home in fourteenth after suffering a puncture in the early stages.
Speaking of his 2017 chances, Pérez is remaining cautiously optimistic after making his best start to a season so far in Melbourne:
“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.
“Our performance in Melbourne showed that we have done a good job over the winter, but there are still areas where we need to improve,” he added, referring to the overall balance of the VJM10. “The upgrades we have coming during the next couple of races should help.”
Esteban Ocon echoed his teammate’s belief that Force India displayed “a solid base on which [the team] can build” in Australia, but also added that there is still much work to be done in China:
“It’s about exploring the limits of the car and understanding how to manage the tyres during qualifying and the race. What we learned in Melbourne will certainly make things a bit easier this weekend, but you never stop learning in this sport.”
James Matthews, Editor-at-Larges