Sergio Perez is confident Force India will soon be able to compete for points finishes in Formula 1 after missing out on the top ten in the Australian Grand Prix.

Force India headed into 2018 on the back of successive fourth-place finishes in the constructors’ championship, scoring points with at least one of its cars in every race barring Monaco last year. 

But the Silverstone-based outfit appeared some way behind its rivals in pre-season testing and struggled for pace in Melbourne, with both drivers knocked out in Q2. Sergio Perez pushed for a points finish but finished behind Renault’s Carlos Sainz in 11th, while Esteban Ocon was a further 13 seconds adrift in 12th. 

“It was quite an unlucky weekend for us, but there are still positives to take from this race,” Perez said. “We came close to bringing home a point although it was just out of reach. 

“I was pushing throughout the whole race and especially chasing Sainz in the final laps. I got really close to him, but it wasn’t enough. Overtaking in Melbourne is very difficult – you could see the same with Bottas who couldn’t pass me during the first stint. 

“The Virtual Safety Car also didn’t help us at all, but that’s just how things go sometimes. I am still happy with my performance and the job we did as a team. We will need to move on and keep improving, but I believe we will soon be in a position to battle for points.

“Hopefully our improvements will come as early as Bahrain,” he added. “It’s a race where you can overtake and strategy plays a bigger part compared to Melbourne.”

Force India hoped to be boosted by a major upgrade package on its VJM11 challenger in the season-opening race in Australia, though the team was comprehensively beaten by midfield rivals McLaren and Renault. 

The outlook could have been even bleaker had Haas not suffered a bizarre double retirement following pitstop problems for Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean, who had been running in fourth and fifth. 

However, deputy team principal Robert Fernley is convinced Force India can out-develop its rivals over the course of the campaign. 

“Ultimately we didn’t have the pace this weekend to fight in the top ten and so we’ve ended our day on the cusp of the points,” Fernley added.

“It’s early days in the season and with twenty races to go there will be plenty of opportunities to develop this car and show our strengths. 

“As I said yesterday, we’re on a learning curve with the developments we introduced this weekend and there’s more in the pipeline for Bahrain.”