F1: Catching McLaren a tough ask for Force India
By Chris Medland | RACER magazine and RACER.com F1 correspondent
Force India team principal Otmar Szafnauer believes his team faces a tough challenge to overhaul McLaren in the constructors’ championship with two races remaining.
McLaren started the season strongly but Force India moved comfortably ahead by the summer break, when the team entered administration and returned to Formula 1 as a new entrant. That meant the loss of its previous points, and although it picked up 47 points in the next five races, Force India slipped 15 points adrift of McLaren in Mexico courtesy of a scoreless weekend and Stoffel Vandoorne’s eighth place.
“After a disappointing outcome in Mexico, there’s even more emphasis on the final two races,” Szafnauer said. “We still have our eye on sixth place in the championship, but it’s a much bigger challenge now. We are 15 points away from our target and overcoming this deficit won’t be easy.
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“We will certainly give it our best shot, continue working hard, but we will need to deliver perfect weekends and perhaps benefit from some good fortune along the way. Whatever happens, it’s going to be an interesting race this weekend in Brazil.”
Force India failed to score in Mexico as Sergio Perez retired from within the top ten and Esteban Ocon required an early pit stop due to damage. While the Frenchman admits he can’t afford further problems in the final two races if the team is to catch McLaren, he is also hopeful of mixed conditions at a circuit where Force India scored just two points in total last season.
“I have good memories of racing at Interlagos,” Ocon said. “In 2016 I was in the points in a Manor for most of the race and only got passed on the last lap. It was a tough race because of the wet conditions. There is usually a risk of rain during the weekend and if we get some this year it would probably make things a bit more interesting.
“I felt really disappointed after the Mexico race. When you have a quick car and your race is effectively over on lap one it’s so frustrating. I’ve learned from the experience in Mexico and will work hard to get back in the points this weekend.
“We need it for the championship because it’s still a close fight with McLaren — and it’s the same in the drivers’ championship. We will keep fighting until the end.”
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ABOUT CHRIS MEDLAND
While studying Sports Journalism at the University of Central Lancashire, Chris managed to talk his way into working at the British Grand Prix in 2008 and was retained for three years before joining ESPN F1 as Assistant Editor. After three years at ESPN, a spell as F1 Editor at Crash Media Group was followed by the major task of launching F1i.com’s English-language website and running it as Editor. Present at every race since the start of 2014, he has continued building his freelance portfolio, working with international titles. As well as writing for RACER, he contributes to BBC 5Live and Sky Sports in the UK as well as working with titles in Japan and the Middle East.