26 October 2013
Indian Grand Prix: Force India still chasing fifth place
Despite slipping off the pace, Vijay Mallya believes that Force India can still challenge McLaren for a top five spot in the 2013 F1 constructors' championship.
Vijay Mallya insists that his Force India team can still reclaim fifth place in the constructors' championship, despite coming under late-season pressure from Sauber for sixth.
Having sat ahead of McLaren for much of the early part of the season, Mallya and Force India know how it feels to be 'best of the rest' behind the 'big four' of Red Bull, Ferrari, Mercedes and Lotus, but has slipped off the pace since the post-Silverstone change of tyre specification and is now within the sights of Sauber, as the Swiss team enjoys a late resurgence.
While Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull run away with the individual and team titles, McLaren and Sauber are split by just 38 points, with Force India caught in the middle, 21 points behind the Woking squad and 17 ahead of its pursuer with four races still to run in 2013. Mallya, however, insists that, despite diverting almost all of its resources towards next year's car, his team can not only resist Sauber, but also take the fight to McLaren before the final chequered flag in Brazil next month.
“Yes, there was a time earlier this season when we were in fifth position, ahead of McLaren but, if we perform well over the next four races, there's no reason why we can't regain fifth,” he told journalists ahead of his home grand prix, “As I said earlier, [Sauber] has certainly given us a wake-up call, so we will do everything we can to stay in sixth.
“Yes, we've dedicated our resources to the development of the 2014 car, but I was quite pleased with the free practice performance today. It's certainly a step ahead from Japan and Korea, so that gives me confidence we are heading in the right direction. I realise the constraints under which we are operating, because the window available to us mechanically is quite a short one but, having said that, I think the results will speak for themselves going forward.”
Mallya makes no secret of the fact that he – and others in the Force India operation – believe that the forced change of tyre specification has harmed the team's performance since the German Grand Prix.
“Absolutely!” he maintained, “The change in the tyres has been more than just detrimental to us. Within the mechanical design of the car, it's proving very difficult for us to get optimum tyre performance. We've dedicated all our R&D tools to the 2014 car, so we are handicapped in a sense but, having said that, I think we are understanding tyres and the constraints under which we are operating slightly better.
“We've certainly fared better today than we did in Japan or Korea and I think we'll attempt to even improve on this before the remaining races. [Sauber] has certainly woken us up - we are now wide awake and, hopefully, we will hang on to our current sixth position in the constructors' championship, though [Sauber] is getting dangerously close. The tyres have not been the best for us in the second half of the season but, hopefully, whatever we suffer this year will be a good investment for next year's car.”
Sauber's Monisha Kaltenborn insists that the upturn in performance from the Hinwil team has not been unexpected, despite its form almost mirroring that of Force India.
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