Sahara Force India secured top ten starting positions for tomorrow’s Australian Grand Prix with Sergio Perez qualifying in ninth place ahead of Nico Hulkenberg in tenth.
P9 Sergio Perez VJM09-02
Q1: 1:26.607 Q2: 1:25.753
Sergio: “I am happy about today's result. The team did a great job and I think it's a very positive way to begin the season. Starting ninth gives us many more options in terms of the strategy because we can choose the tyres for our first stint. This could be one of the key aspects of the race so it’s good to be in this position.
“As for the new qualifying system, we need to see how the fans react. I think it’s a system that favours the big teams and puts more pressure on the middle of the grid because any mistake during your lap means you will almost certainly be eliminated. You don't have any opportunity to go out again and improve your time, which adds a lot of pressure - much more on us than on bigger teams. It's not just pressure for the drivers, it is for everyone in the team, also the mechanics and engineers - you're in a race against the clock just for the opportunity to get another lap in.
“We still have question marks about how the race will unfold, but I think pretty much everyone on the grid is in the same position because of the limited running in the dry. It will be an interesting Sunday and we have the potential to score good points.”
P10 Nico Hulkenberg VJM09-01
Q1: 1:26.550 Q2: 1:25.865
Nico: “The new qualifying format didn’t really change my approach, although you are certainly under more pressure to deliver a good first run to avoid being at risk of dropping out early. So your first runs in Q1 and Q2 are probably the most important of the day.
“In terms of the result, I’m pretty happy with tenth and it’s more or less in the ballpark of what we felt we could achieve today. Under last year’s rules it would have taken us through to Q3, but with the new format it’s actually a really good place to start because it opens up some nice strategy options with the free tyre choice for the start of the race.
“There are still a few unknowns for tomorrow, especially in terms of race pace because nobody was able to do their usual long run programmes yesterday. Also, the first race always has the potential to be unpredictable and eventful. I expect a tough race because the grid is very tight, but I want to come away with some big points.”
Robert Fernley, Deputy Team Principal
“I think the whole team can be satisfied to see our cars lining up on the fifth row of the grid for the first race of the season. It has been quite an unusual and disjointed weekend in the lead up to qualifying, so to come through that and qualify inside the top ten is a good achievement. The new qualifying system didn’t really impact on our approach to the session and probably didn’t change too much in the end. Going into the session we knew that ninth and tenth would represent a good result, especially given the strategic options it opens up. The task now is to convert today’s performance into solid points tomorrow afternoon.”