Team Principal Vijay Mallya looks back on Melbourne and summarises the mood in the Force India camp ahead of the Malaysian Grand Prix weekend, Round 2 of the 2014 Formula 1 World Championship, at Sepang International Circuit.
How would you sum up the first race in Melbourne?
Vijay Mallya: Australia was definitely a respectable start, without a doubt, and probably the best start we’ve had since I took over the team. We went into the race feeling good and confident. We were concerned initially about reliability, but I think the number of laps we were able to put in during Bahrain testing gave us the confidence that we were on top most issues. The fact that both cars finished the race is a good way to start the season.
Are you pleased with the performance of the car?
VM: Clearly the VJM07 is competitive: Nico finished sixth with a strong drive and I dare say Checo would have been higher up had he not had a first lap puncture. The fact that he finished where he did after three stops speaks for itself. Obviously there are reasons to be pleased, but we still realise that we need to find a bit more performance if we want to challenge for podiums. That’s what we are focussing on right now.
How is the team coping with the steep learning curve of the new technology?
VM: Whenever I spoke with the engineering team over the winter, it became clear the biggest unknown was the complexity of the car, and consequently the reliability. It wasn’t as if the designers and engineers were working with a familiar car that they already knew how to upgrade and tweak. Here everything was new. For example, nobody really knew what cooling was required and optimising that was a major job during testing. I think we have gone up the learning curve successfully and we have a good understanding of the car and all the new technology that’s gone into it.
What’s your overall view on the new formula?
VM: The change to the 1.6-litre V6 with the ERS has had its fair share of debate. Yes, it’s complicated; it’s very sophisticated and it’s unknown territory, which led to a lot of speculation. In the Bahrain tests, when some of the bigger teams completed limited mileage, it simply fuelled this speculation. So to see so many cars finish the race surprised a lot of people. It shows that teams have got on top of their game and the uncertainties have been reduced to a large extent. Now it’s a question of really concentrating on trying to find the competitive advantage.
What can we expect this weekend in Malaysia?
VM: The weather in Melbourne was relatively cool so I’d like to see what impact the warmer climates of Malaysia and Bahrain will have on performance and competitiveness. Effective cooling will be a priority this weekend. If we can reproduce the performance level we showed in Melbourne that will be a good starting point.
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