Sergio Perez described Force India’s rise to fourth in the Formula One Constructors’ Championship as “a fantastic achievement” – but insisted there was more to come from the high-flying team.
The Mexican star came in fifth at the Belgium Grand Prix last Sunday (28) and teammate Nico Hulkenberg finished a place better in fourth for a combined 22-point haul.
The result saw the Silverstone-based outfit climb above Williams in the table on 103 points, two ahead of their rivals after Valtteri Botas and Felipe Massa finished eighth and 10th respectively.
“It’s been a great day for the team and I am very pleased to finish fifth, but it was quite a tough race from the start,” Perez said, who started on the grid in sixth position.
“I chose a wide line going into turn one, but had to go far on the outside to avoid the first corner accident and that cost me a few positions.
“I dropped down to ninth and that compromised my race. I managed to make some good progress early on, but every time I switched to new tyres I found myself having to put a lot of stress on them as I needed to attack Felipe, then Fernando [Alonso].
“I still managed to make my way through and bring home a good result for the team. Moving to fourth in the constructors’ championship is a fantastic achievement, but we can’t get carried away because there’s still a long way to go in the season.
He added: “Hopefully we can keep our momentum going and keep scoring strongly.”
German driver Hulkenberg, starting in seventh, took advantage of that first turn incident between Max Verstappen, Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel to take second place.
He held onto that spot until a red flag forced a restart, after which he was quickly overtaken by Daniel Ricciardo.
Hulkenberg was also later overhauled by championship leader and defending title-holder Lewis Hamilton, who produced an amazing third place finish after starting at the back of the grid due to an engine penalty.
The Force India speedster was still a happy man, though.
“Today is a massive result for the team and I’m feeling very happy with fourth place,” Hulkenberg said. “There were some unusual circumstances, but we were there to take the opportunities and pick up some very important points.
“At the start of the race, things worked out really well for me. The first lap was great; I was up in second place following Nico [Rosberg] and pulling away from the group of cars behind me.
“Unfortunately, the red flag proved costly because it neutralised things and bunched everybody back up again. The restart was clean and the rest of the race was quite controlled – just managing my pace and looking after the tyres.
He continued: “There was a battle with Fernando coming out of the pit lane, but we managed to stay ahead and keep the fourth position. Maybe if things had worked out slightly differently, we could have been on the podium, but I’m satisfied with the fourth position.”
Mercedes’ Rosberg got his title bid back in gear by winning the chaotic race, ahead of Ricciardo in the Red Bull.
Rosberg led from start to finish in the 44-lap race. Hamilton remains narrowly ahead of his team mate in the title race with 232 points to his 223.
Reflecting on the events at Spa, Force India’s deputy team principal Robert Fernley commented: “We can rightly be proud of a great team result – the first time we’ve put both cars in the top five since Bahrain in 2014.
“It was a fantastic weekend, one that highlights once more the special relationship we have with Spa-Francorchamps.
“Everyone did a great job and we can now celebrate a very strong race. We can even be a bit disappointed too, because without the safety car and red flag, Nico could well have been on the podium. But considering how the race turned out, we feel content with the result.
“We are now fourth in the championship, having scored 89 points since Monaco, but we won’t let our guard down. There is still a long way to go and the battle in the midfield is just going to get closer.
“We will continue to work hard and hopefully bring home more special results between now and the end of the season.”