Esteban Ocon is confident Force India can turnaround its fortunes after a slow start to the 2018 Formula 1 season, beginning at this weekend’s Bahrain Grand Prix.  

Force India appeared to have fallen behind its midfield rivals during pre-season testing and endured a disappointing start in Melbourne, with Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon finishing a low-key 11th and 12th respectively, after neither driver progressed to Q3. 

Significant improvements over the winter from the likes of McLaren, Haas and Renault pushed Force India down the pecking order in Australia as the team missed out on points for the first time in 14 races, even with top five contenders Haas suffering a double retirement at the half-way stage. 

“I think it’s clear where we are at the moment, we are not where we want to be exactly. We are a bit bottom of the midfield to be honest,” Ocon admitted. “But things change massively quickly in F1, both ways. 

“You can improve massively or get slower massively and improve less than the others. My feeling last year was that we started last year not very quick, and we ended up at some point qualifying in sixth and fifth in normal conditions. 

“Last year was a difficult time at the beginning. We didn’t qualify well in the first two or three races and then we improved and got stronger during the year, so that’s what we are aiming for. There’s 20 races to go so it’s a long way. I think everything is possible.”

The Frenchman also compared Haas’ eye-catching performance levels from Melbourne’s season-opener with its start to 2017, citing how the US squad’s performance tailed off as the season went on. 

“Haas they qualified P6 in Australia last year, also in Bahrain they were quick and then they dropped off, which is when we picked up performance,” he explained. “The Renault was behind and they ended up behind because we just developed the same level. Let’s see.” 

Force India will be bolstered by the introduction of a new front wing in Bahrain, which Ocon hopes will help extract performance from the team’s upgraded package it took to Australia. 

However, the Silverstone-based outfit has brought just one sample of the new wing to Bahrain, meaning Sergio Perez will be the only driver to race it on his VJM11 if it proves a success. 

“Normal policy is it’s normally the driver on top in the championship - even though we have no points [it] should be Sergio [Perez].

“We have to test it and put the car down on the track, so I can’t tell you now whether it’s a big improvement or not. But I trust the team, it should be an improvement, it should be a good step. 

“Let’s see, we have a lot of things to test on this Friday to understand. The team came up with a pretty solid plan so it will be important to have a clean day.”

 

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