Esteban Ocon

Force India locks out second row at Belgian GP and plans upgrades for Singapore

Force India surprised the world of F1 by locking out the second row at the Belgian Grand Prix — only days after the team was rescued from administration by Lawrence Stroll-led new backers. Esteban Ocon took third and Sergio Perez fourth place on the grid after late rain shuffled the order on track.

“It was a great result for us,” said Otmar Szafnauer, the team’s Chief Executive Officer and Team Principal. “A little bit of luck with the weather changing and us being out on the track at the right time, but then also a good degree of skill, because we had a car that got us to Q3 anyway, and that was done in the dry. We had a good car regardless, but being out on track when the rain was stopping towards the end helped. Third and fourth places are a great result for us!”

Describing the few weeks before the Belgian Grand Prix, when Force India was put into administration, Szafnauer said that transparency helped the staff to keep the spirits up.

“There was a lot of uncertainty, which brings anxiety, because people didn’t know. But as things were changing I made it my job to keep people informed. The more information you give, the better off everybody is and more relaxed they become. So, I tried to give them as much information as I could.

“We are secure financially and we will continue to work hard. Now we can do some of the things that we couldn’t do before, and just get better! I think the number of people that we have is proportional to the infrastructure and tools that we have. We’ll have to grow both of them at the same time to get more performance.”

Otmar Szafnauer
Otmar Szafnauer, Racing Point Force India’s CEO and Team Principal (center), speaks to media during the 2018 Belgian Grand Prix. © Motorsport Technology.

And it’s good news here too. Projects that were previously stalled have been given green light and the team is planning major upgrades on and off the track in the next few weeks.

“To give you a good example, we had an upgrade that we wanted to bring to this track to get more performance. We couldn’t do it because we didn’t have the money. Now, it’s coming for Singapore Grand Prix! This is an example of how quickly things can happen now.

Sergio Perez, Racing Point Force India VJM11 during the 2018 Belgian Grand Prix. © Racing Point Force India.

“Another example, we started upgrading our Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) supercomputer cluster. There are three phases of upgrades. We completed phase one, but didn’t have the money for the phase two. Now, we’ve already ordered phase two — it’ll be coming in in about two weeks — and we’ll be ordering phase three right after that. It’s those types of things that people from the outside don’t see. Technology development requires people, hardware, and tools, and sometimes those things stall. Now, we can get those moving again.”

Qualifying top three: Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari), Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes AMG F1), Esteban Ocon (Racing Point Force India F1 Team). Belgian Grand Prix, Saturday 25th August 2018. © Racing Point Force India.

Szafnauer also mentioned the benefits that the new ownership is going to bring to Force India’s partners.

“The new ownership wants what best for the team and will try to improve performance and get us higher up the grid. If the team performs better, it’s better for all of our partners. We’re grateful for partners who supported us even during our most difficult times. And it will be good for everybody to reap the benefits during the better times.

“We’ve already started working on the next year’s car and continue to push hard on the new regulations. We want to be at least where we left off last year — fourth — and try to push for third. Pushing for third may take a few years, but it’s our goal.”

Guennadi Moukine

Motorsport Technology Editor.