17 September 2013
Singapore Grand Prix: Mallya: We have to get on top of tyres
A return to form in Singapore is high on Vijay Mallya's wishlist for Sahara Force Inida as it seeks to close the gap to McLaren in the F1 team's championship.
Sahara Force India team principal Vijay Mallya insists that his squad can still overhaul McLaren in the race for a top five constructors' championship spot in 2013, provided it gets a handle on the latest Pirelli tyres.
Force India had the beating of its Woking rival in the early part of the season but, in the wake of the enforced tyre change that followed the dramatic scenes at Silverstone, Mallya's team has struggled to maintain its level of performance and slipped to sixth overall after the recent Italian Grand Prix.
With seven races remaining, beginning with Singapore this weekend, Force India trails McLaren by five points, and Mallya is hoping that the Marina Bay circuit continues to be kind to his outfit, having provided scoring results in the past three years.
“We've been strong in Singapore, especially last year, [and] hopefully that will continue this year, but we know we've got to get on top of the tyres to unleash the potential of the car,” the Indian confirmed, “Points must be the target for this weekend to keep up our momentum in the championship fight.
“It is going to be a close fight, but the good news is that McLaren still isn't that far ahead. They only scored one point in Monza, so they are definitely catchable. We need to perform better ourselves, that's very clear. We're working hard to find more performance but, at the same time, we've made it quite clear that we will not compromise next year's programme. It's always a balancing act, but we know what we need to do.”
Force India had similarly high hopes for Monza, another circuit where its cars had performed well in the past, but neither Adrian Sutil nor Paul di Resta could make a dent in the top ten.
“It was very clear from the first practice session that things were not going our way,” Mallya admitted, “We tried different set-ups, but nothing really worked. That also showed in qualifying. In the race there were times when Adrian showed good pace, but it certainly wasn't our best weekend.”
Regardless of the result this weekend, however, Force India will be among the best supported teams among the local population – something that Mallya is eagerly anticipating.
“Absolutely, there are a lot of Indians and a lot of our fans based in Singapore, and there's always a great atmosphere in the city,” he concluded, “It's one of the highlights of the year, the place looks wonderful when it's lit up and I always look forward to it.”
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