Sahara Force India gears up for new F1 season
Silverstone: With a slew of rule changes coming into play in the Formula One Championships this year, Sahara Force India Team Principal Vijay Mallya feels it would be a "massive challenge" for a small team like his.
Mallya, however, said Sahara Force India was raring to go after a "satisfactory" pre-season testing stint.
"It`s been a massive challenge, especially for a smaller team like ours. That was why we put so many plans in place early last year to be ready for what has become a very different Formula One. All the hard work has paid off but it has been a very steep learning curve and a huge undertaking to get where we are today," Mallya said ahead of the season opener Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne on March 16.
"It`s the first time for many years that Formula One has been properly aligned with the automotive industry. The prospect of Formula One driving forward technical advances for road cars is a very exciting one," he said.
Asked about his team`s final test in Bahrain, Mallya said, "It was certainly a good week in terms of mileage because we completed the second highest number of laps of all the teams. So we can be satisfied with the amount and quality of the work we were able to carry out.
"We`ve learned a lot of things -- by no means everything -- and I think we can feel quietly confident."
Refusing to predict his team`s chances in Melbourne, Mallya said, "It`s never easy to make predictions and this year there are so many more unknowns than usual. I think we can arrive in Melbourne feeling happy about the work we`ve done over the winter.
"How that will translate to a race weekend is hard to say, but I think it`s important that an element of unpredictability has returned. There is plenty of interest around Formula One at the moment and that`s a good thing."
Sahara Force India driver Nico Hulkenberg said he was satisfied with the pre-season testing.
"I think we`re pretty satisfied. In the final week in Bahrain we averaged 100 laps per day and made good progress. You would always like more time to test, but we`ve done as much as we could," Hulkenberg said.
Asked about the new procedures and a new way of driving which will come into play this season, Hulkenberg said: "I feel comfortable, but I think this feeling will grow stronger during the season. The cars are different compared to last year: the corner speeds are lower because there is less downforce and the engine behaviour is quite different.
"So it`s a new challenge and it`s difficult to tell just from testing how it will feel during a race weekend. We made steps at each test and I think we made very good use of the time we had available. We signed off a lot of things during testing and I don`t think we`re in bad shape. There is always more you can do, but we`re pretty well prepared.
"It`s not easy to say. Testing only tells you so much, but I think we still have some performance in our pocket. I just hope we are competitive and can race for good points."
Asked about his `bad luck` in Melbourne where he has not even completed the opening lap in the three races in his career so far, Hulkenberg said" "It`s been three races in Melbourne and I`ve still not completed a racing lap! They say bad luck comes in groups of three so hopefully attempt number four will work out better!"
Force India`s second driver Sergio Perez also said that he was geared up for the new season.
"It`s the first race of the year so I`ve been looking forward to this moment for a long time. I hope we can have a great start of the season," he said.
"The new rules are interesting and the cars are quite challenging. There is less downforce now, but there is a lot of torque from the engine so it`s quite a different feeling. You also have to think about managing the fuel load and we know that Melbourne is a circuit with high fuel consumption."
Asked about his first race weekend with Sahara Force India coming up in Melbourne, he said, "It`s always a good feeling to start with a new team. The team is very hungry and I hope we can achieve some great things this year."
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