Force India team principal Vijay Mallya admits that he is not yet allowing himself to think that the Silverstone squad has secured its place in F1's top five.
With Paul di Resta and Adrian Sutil
pulling regular points finishes out of a competitive VJM06, Force India
has capitalised on McLaren's woeful start to 2013 to claim 'best of the rest' honours behind F1's current top four – Red Bull, Ferrari, Mercedes and Lotus – but Mallya is all too aware that things could turn around very quickly, and that the points cushion between his team and McLaren
is not impregnable.
“We are now 22 points ahead of McLaren
- they are on 37, and we have 59 – and it's all very well to say we are widening the gap, but McLaren
is such a formidable team, with such a fantastic track record, they can wipe out that entire gap by winning just one race,” he pointed out, “I would not take it for granted that we will hang on to fifth, but we will make every attempt.”
With just a week between the first of the team's 'home' races, at Silverstone, and the German Grand Prix, it is unlikely that McLaren
can make such a significant step forward in performance, while Mallya remains confident that di Resta and Sutil will continue to be a threat for the top ten.
“We expect to carry our form into this weekend,” he confirmed, “In the last few races, we've seen our speed and we've managed to get Paul into the points on three occasions from the back of the grid. It's a home race for Adrian, a track he enjoys, and we will go there determined to continue our run of finishes with two cars in the points.”
di Resta has finished in the points in seven of the eight races to date – the anomaly being a DNF in Malaysia – but Mallya no doubt knows that his haul could have been better than the 36 points he has accrued so far, given that he has twice failed to progress beyond Q1 and, at Silverstone, a fantastic fifth on the grid was negated when his car came in underweight at scrutineering.
“The qualifying penalty was most disappointing for us,” Mallya reflected, “We celebrated our 100th grand prix in Montreal, we know the rules, and we respect the rules.
“After FP3, we weighed Paul and the car and everything was fine. So to find out after qualifying that the weight was 1.5kgs below the minimum was truly a shock. We made our representations to the stewards, we said there could be an error, and asked if we could be given the benefit of the doubt, [but] the stewards decided to penalise Paul and we accepted it - and started at the back of the grid.”
Despite the setback, di Resta raced through the field to claim ninth at the chequered flag, while team-mate Sutil ran as high as third during the race before fading in the closing stages to come home seventh.