Esteban Ocon believes the Force India Formula 1 team is back where it “deserves to be" after locking out the fourth row of the grid in Azerbaijan Grand Prix qualifying. 

Force India has faced a difficult start to the 2018 F1 season and has scored just a single point in the opening three rounds of the campaign, but the Silverstone-based squad enjoyed a return to form in Baku as both drivers progressed to Q3 for the first time this year. 

Ocon led the team’s charge in seventh, narrowly out-qualifying teammate Sergio Perez as the pair finished one second down on pole sitter Sebastian Vettel

“It’s been very strong this weekend I think we’ve brought big progress to the car,” Ocon said. “It was very enjoyable to drive and we are where we deserve to be today today. The team has worked very hard but it’s a long season so I hope we can keep that position.”

Despite matching his best qualifying result of the season, Perez feels he had the pace to beat his teammate and take advantage of Kimi Raikkonen’s botched Q3 run to start Sunday’s race from even higher on the grid. 

"A very exciting qualifying and good results for the team,” the Mexican said. “We were clearly the fastest midfield team today. I’m a bit disappointed, I was so close not only to my teammate but to Raikkonen. My qualifying has been so low [this year]. 

“I didn’t get a clean lap until Q3 with the wind conditions we had today, and there were so many yellow flags. It was not ideal preparation for Q3 but I’m happy we made it. It was really difficult having the tailwind through Turn 16, it was quite hard.”

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