Q: Checo, Shanghai often springs weather surprises and it looks like rain could be possible for qualifying and the race. What do you make of that?
Sergio Perez: Well that will be tricky. Yes, we’ve tried the intermediate [tyre] in Melbourne, but we didn’t run them much - but I think this situation goes for everybody. In fact, I think that our car should be competitive in wet conditions, so actually I am looking forward to it. The season has not started so well for us, so there is plenty of reason that we should do better here. I am pretty optimistic for the weekend ahead.
Q: Why optimistic here - and not with much easier conditions we saw in Bahrain?
SP: Well, because the car right now is not in its strongest pace compared to our competitors. In Bahrain we suffered, even though normally this is a circuit that suits us very well. But in the course of the last two races we have started to understand the car better and better, so we are optimistic for here - and for the upgrades that we will introduce in the course of the year.
Q: So is the first big upgrade package still scheduled for Spain in four weeks’ time?
Q: Haven’t you already had some upgrades in Bahrain?
SP: No, not really. What you saw in Bahrain was mainly a matter of set-up changes. Yes, there have been little bits and pieces, but nothing compared to what we expect to introduce in Spain.
Q: Have you been analysing with your engineers why Bahrain did not work for you - a track that, as you said, usually suits you very well?
SP: Yes, it was a poor weekend - but many times you learn the most from such weekends! (laughs) So I hope that we can capitalize on the learning curve from the last race.
Q: Theoretically these new tyre rules with the three compounds should play to Force India’s advantage, as the team has always understood optimal tyre use pretty well. Do you think that this will be a factor again once you understand the car better?
SP: I hope so and think that later on, with more variations, we can play a bit more with the strategy. But there is always a chance that you also can get it wrong, as we did in Bahrain with our strategy. From our potential we should have finished much higher up - even with the lap-one incident - so I think that we should benefit from the new rules.
Q: Pirelli predict very early pit stops with the supersoft tyres here in Shanghai. Do you think that opens up more strategic options for a team like Force India?
SP: I hope so. Now that the qualifying has changed back to the old mode, that should help. In Bahrain when you finished in P9 in qualifying you were in good shape, as you had the tyre freedom. Now you have that freedom when you qualify in P11, so actually that is not so great. So with this background people will try different things with the tyres, so it will be an interesting race. In the past people pitted very early for the first time - now let’s see what strategies everybody comes up with.
Q: Did you expect a better start into the season from Force India, given how strongly you finished 2015?
SP: We definitely finished 2015 on a high, although we also shouldn’t be in the position we are in now. We’ve really been unlucky so far. Look back at Melbourne: P9 in qualifying with the free tyre choice, and then I had a problem with the start and that put me into a poor position, but we still were en route into the points with both cars when the red flag came - and that was it for me. And Bahrain was simply a terribly unlucky weekend. So yes, we are not at the level we were expecting heading into the season - but also when luck turns against you it gets even worse. We should be a lot better than where we are right now.
But for this weekend - even with dark clouds and rain in the forecast - I see light at the end of the tunnel. The season is very long so we have plenty of ways to go. Our season last year started basically at Silverstone with the massive upgrade we brought there - and we finished fifth in the championship. This year we’ll bring the upgrade four races earlier - that should play to our advantage. But first and foremost it is always the next race that counts most - and my gut feeling is good.