Q: Checo, the first three races have been a bit of a wake-up call for Force India. How is the view from the driver’s seat?
Sergio Perez: Well, obviously we haven’t had the nicest races so far. When looking back I would say that in Melbourne we clearly missed the chance to score more points than we did. It was a messy race for me, but in the end I managed to score one point. In Malaysia it was simply impossible to do anything. The tyre degradation on our car was massive - in fact we were just sliding around. In Shanghai my impression is that we made a step forward - at least the numbers showed that we were more competitive. But numbers are numbers and you have to execute performance on the track. Definitely a step forward, yes - now let’s see if we can bring that to the track here. The track layout should suit us so we expect to be more competitive and close more of the gap to the people ahead of us. But to really do this significantly we need an upgrade.
Q: You say that Shanghai was definitely a step forward, but the result was pretty unsatisfactory…
SP: Sometimes we can do magical things with the strategy, but in Malaysia and Shanghai we finished where we deserved to finish. We will try again this weekend.
Q: The Mercedes is still the strongest power unit, so where are the issues?
SP: Yes, we are Mercedes powered which is still the best engine around, but Ferrari has closed the gap massively. Look at Ferrari - and Sauber! In our case the main issue is the car. We have not enough load and weight. Right now our car is in a worse position than last year. We took a step back…
Q: What areas are you talking about specifically?
SP: The whole car. We have a slower car than we had last year. But the team has found good solutions to solve our issues so we are really optimistic for the upgrade package.
Q: Force India have announced that a massive upgrade has to wait until the Austrian Grand Prix. What are you doing in between? This means still four races with this car…
SP: In between we must give anything we can. Simple as that. We are working very hard every weekend to achieve the most in our situation - and sometimes luck is definitely not on our side right now. Remember, 12 months ago we were on the podium here - and now we would be super happy to make it into the points. That would seem close to a victory. This is how fast things can change in Formula One. ‘Hero to zero’ can happen almost overnight. It is really a painful period at the moment, but I am optimistic that it will again go the other way.
Q: That fantastic podium finish last year: what has to happen to make it happen again?
SP: Ha, basically most of the grid has to retire! (laughs) That doesn’t sound realistic, does it? As I said, if we manage to get in the points that would be massive.
Q: How much of a boost does this track give you? You said that it is one of your favourites…
SP: Yep, there is hope that luck returns on this track.
Q: When you say finishing in the points, what position do you have in mind?
SP: I said we have to be realistic, so I would say P9 or P10.
Q: So how did it go today? Aside from that Sebastian Vettel incident…
SP: Sebastian came over to explain what had happened - not many drivers would have done that. Before that incident I think we ran at the potential that we have right now. Overall it was what I expected and there is definitely the feeling that we’ve made another step forward - how big a step Sunday will show. Of course you want more, want to go faster and start further up the grid, but I am realistic when it comes to our pace. I am still convinced that we can have a good race on Sunday - at least I owe this to the track that brought me the podium last year.
Q: You and team mate Nico Hulkenberg are ambitious drivers. How hard is it to be stuck in the bottom third of the grid?
SP: Well, we are young enough to still believe that we could become the best drivers in the world and finally move to a big team. We are probably both in a transition period.
Q: But if you look right now at your former team McLaren, you must be happy with where you are
SP: …yes, sounds funny but it’s true. This is how strange F1 sometimes can be! (laughs) Being in a top team doesn’t guarantee anything.
Q: Reliability has for years been Force India’s secret weapon. In China Nico’s car gave up. A one-off or a sign of more to come
SP: I think that was a one-off. It was an issue that we spotted already. So fingers crossed that it was a one-off and that we can cruise into the points on Sunday.