'Start not ideal but Force India will have a strong season'
Force India's preparation ahead of the Formula 1 season has been far from ideal but performance in the final pre-season test has given them the confidence to aim for points in the opening race at Melbourne this weekend, said deputy team principal Robert Fernley.
New Delhi: Force India's preparation ahead of the Formula 1 season has been far from ideal but performance in the final pre-season test has given them the confidence to aim for points in the opening race at Melbourne this weekend, said deputy team principal Robert Fernley.
The Silverstone squad missed the first pre-season test in Jerez, ran its 2014 car in the second before the new car made its debut in the final test and ran reliably for 365 laps at the Circuit de Catalunya in Barcelona.
"It is never perfect but I think when you come out of the launch of the car and run consistently for three days without any issues, it is a good sign and hopefully it bodes well for the season," Fernley told PTI ahead of Sunday's season opener at Albert Park.
Notwithstanding the reliable run in Barcelona, Force India admitted that they have some catching up to do with their mid-field rivals.
Though pre-season timings are not clear indications of the car's race pace, Sergio Perez was two seconds off the pace in the VJM08 on final day of the pre-season test.
"I think we are not that far behind. We will be competing against our midfield rivals and battling for points as always. We only race for points. We never race for making up the numbers," asserted Fernley when asked about his team's chances in the season opener.
The delay in introducing the new car generated negative publicity for the team, raising questions over its future at a time when co-owner Mallya is battling with financial problems back home and other majority shareholder Subrata Roy being in jail since March 2014. Speculation was rife whether the team will even make it to Melbourne.
Fernley was quick to dismiss growing speculations and promised another strong season.
"I think our season is secure and we will have a very strong season. As we move on through the season, as we start to get the benefits of the Toyota wind tunnel, we will have some strong results.
"The benefits won't come through immediately. I would imagine it will start to flow through into the Europe (leg). There were bold moves we made in terms of changing the wind tunnel to Cologne in Germany, it was a strong signal of how committed the shareholders are to improve. It is only a matter of time before we start to reap the benefits," he explained.
Fernley further said that using the Toyota wind tunnel facility will help them significantly in improving the rear grip of the car, an issue that consistently troubled the team last season. However, it still managed to finish a creditable sixth with record 155 points.
On plight of the owners, Fernley said it was time for the
doubters to also look at the positives.
"I think you also have to look at it from a point of view that team is in its eighth year of Formula 1, so why would you assume that it is not going to continue the way it has been over the years.
"The team has taken some very strong steps over the winter to improve its wind tunnel facility. Overall, the team has not been affected by the issues of the owners. It is actually looking to go forward. So why can't we just look at the way the team is performing for the budget that it has?" he asked.
Force India have also been waging an often lonely battle against the ever rising costs in Formula 1 besides asking for better distribution of the sport's revenues.
With no change in sight, Fernley said he has reached a point where he would want to ignore the incessant chatter on F1 finances in the paddock.
"I don't see any changes in the foreseeable future. In this scenario, you just have to continue with the discussions and continue to back your belief. The revenue model has not changed in a long time. It remains the same as to how the teams get paid and certain teams get paid more than others," he concluded.