Sahara Force India has had a good start in the 2014 Formula One season but more needs to be done for a podium finish, said team boss Vijay Mallya ahead of Sunday’s Bahrain Grand Prix.
Force India is presently fifth in the team standings with 19 points after the first two races. Nico Hulkenberg has already made his presence felt, lapping up 18 points to a single point scored by Mexican teammate Sergio Perez.
“We’ve still got some catching up to do if we want to be a regular podium contender. We’ve got our plans for that. We’ve had our best start to a season in our history since the Jordan times and despite only one car finishing in Malaysia, we are fifth in the championship,” Mallya said.
He added he was confident of a second double points finish at a circuit where two pre-season tests were conducted. Sunday’s race will also be the Gulf nation’s first F1 night race. “We don’t expect any unknowns and hopefully we’ll have a good race in Bahrain.”
Hulkenberg took the lead for a short time during last week’s Malaysian GP before he pulled off a two-stop strategy to finish fifth and Mallya took a lot of pride in that. “You can’t just find yourself in lead in a GP by accident. Things should be in the right place and at the right time and you must be good enough to be able to be up there in front.”
On Hulkenberg’s performance, Mallya said: “He’s got that huge competitive spirit in him and he’s obviously hugely talented. In the wet, in the dry, whatever the tyre compound, he’s there. It was sad that we encountered some unexpected issues with Checo’s car.”
Hulkenberg too is encouraged by the pace of the car and now wants his team to keep the development rate high. “I think we have a strong foundation and we can now build on that. The car is good, but there are still areas that we need to focus and work on. We have to keep the development rate high,” said the German.
On the night race in Bahrain, he said: “We will drive at a very different time of day — when it gets cooler. I think it will be easier for the tyres and tyre management. In terms of performance, I expect something similar to Malaysia. I think the aim must be to qualify in the top ten again and score some more points,” added the German.
Perez had an excellent race here last year as he finished sixth in a McLaren car and he is hoping for a good show again.