Sergio Perez fired Force India to their best finish of the 2015 Formula One season in Belgium last Sunday (23) – but promised there is still more to come from the Silverstone-based team.
The Mexican star came fifth at the Spa-Franchorchamps Circuit after starting on the second row to pick up 10 crucial points and make up for the disappointment of team mate Nico Hulkenberg’s non-start with a power problem.
Perez moved up to 11th in the drivers standings on 25 points with the result, one place above his German colleague (24pts). Force India did lose a place in the constructors table following Lotus driver Romain Grosjean’s third place, but are only a point behind their fifth place rival.
Perez made a great start, moving two places to lie second behind Lewis Hamilton on the opening lap. Though he kept a whole host of drivers at bay throughout the 43 laps, he was overtaken by Red Bulls’ Daniil Kvyat on fresh tyres on the penultimate lap and dropped to sixth place.
Perez, though, benefited from Sebastian Vettel’s dramatic tyre blowout in the Ferrari while in third, ensuring the fifth place spot, which gave the team something to cheer after the double retirement in Hungary last time out.
Despite the positives of the weekend, Perez insists his team can get better as they continue to get up to speed with their new VJM08 car.
“Fifth place and 10 points is a good result, but we just lacked the pace to really fight for the podium,” he said.
“My start was very strong and I was close to taking the lead on lap one when I was alongside Lewis after Eau Rouge. I settled into a good rhythm, but we had very high degradation on the soft tyres in the first two stints.
“It was a bit better on the medium (tyres), although we struggled in the middle sector with our low downforce set-up and that hurt my pace. We were racing some quick cars and it was hard to fight off Grosjean and Kvyat.”
The 25-year-old speedster added: “It’s clear we need to analyse our performance and see where we can improve. I’m already looking forward to the next race in Monza, which is another track where I think we can be competitive.”
Two-time world champion Hamilton (227pts) won his sixth race of the campaign to extend his lead over Mercedes compatriot Nico Rosberg to 28 points. It was the Briton’s 39th victory of his career and his 80th podium finish, equalling the total of the late great Ayrton Senna.
For Hulkenberg, though, it was a disastrous weekend. Starting 11th on the grid, he couldn’t join the race due to a loss of power after the formation lap and his car had to be pushed off the track.
“It’s disappointing to finish your race before it’s even started, but sometimes these things happen in racing,” he said after. “On the way to the grid I just felt a loss of power. We tried to understand and fix the problem, but it came back during the formation lap.
“There were a few moments when the power returned, but it disappeared again just before the start and I had to retire. It’s a real shame because the car has been very quick and we had a good opportunity to score some important points.”
Force India team principal and managing director Vijay Mallya commented: “We leave Belgium with mixed feelings after a very eventful race. Sergio delivered a battling performance and extracted all he could from the VJM08.
“He was able to challenge for the podium positions at the start of the race and to finish with a fifth place, his best result of the year so far, confirmed the good pace he had shown all weekend.
“He didn’t put a wheel wrong all day and was able to keep some very competitive rivals behind with an intelligent and defensive drive.”
Reacting to Hulkenberg’s problems, Mallya added: “There are many regrets about what could have been had Nico had a clean weekend. Unfortunately, he suffered a loss of power on the way to the grid and we were unable to rectify the problem before the start.
“It’s something we will thoroughly investigate with Mercedes. It’s a shame as he would have had a competitive race. The battle for fifth in the championship remains open and we’re already looking forward to the next round at Monza (next weekend) to reclaim the position.”