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Force India feels fantastic to be fourth as F1 fight with Williams intensifies

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Force India feels fantastic to be fourth as F1 fight with Williams intensifies
Aug 31, 2016, 1:28 PM

The battle between Force India and Williams over fourth place in the constructors’ championship was already set-up to be one of the major talking...

The battle between Force India and Williams over fourth place in the constructors’ championship was already set-up to be one of the major talking points for the second half of the 2016 Formula 1 season.

That fight has now intensified further after Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez finished fourth and fifth at last weekend’s Belgian Grand Prix and the Silverstone-based squad moved ahead of Williams by two points in the teams’ standings.

It also marked the first time Force India has had two cars finish in the top five since the 2014 Bahrain Grand Prix.

Bahrain Grand Prix 2014 Force India

Force India found a way to control the blistering on the Pirelli tyres, an issue that was caused by the hot temperatures last weekend at Spa, and the team came away with 22 points.

Hulkenberg briefly looked like he might finally score his first ever F1 podium before the safety car and red flag interruptions, which were caused by Kevin Magnussen crashing his Renault heavily at Eau Rouge. This closed up the gaps in the pack and meant the eventual third place finisher Lewis Hamilton climbed towards the top of the order as other drivers dived into the pits.

“At the start of the race things worked out really well for me,” Hulkenberg explained after the race. “The first lap was great; I was up in second place following Nico [Rosberg] and pulling away from the group of cars behind me.

Nico Hulkenberg

“Unfortunately, the red flag proved costly because it neutralised things and bunched everybody back up again. Maybe if things had worked out slightly differently, we could have been on the podium, but I’m satisfied with the fourth position.”

It was the safety car that also ruined Valtteri Bottas’ race for Williams, as he did not immediately come in to the pits when it appeared, but instead did so a lap later and he fell fourth to 12th place.

“It was a disappointing day and a shame that we wasted the opportunity that we had at the beginning of the race,” said Bottas. “We were in a great position after the start and when the safety car came in we should have pitted immediately. We then lost many positions.

“We tried to get the most out the race that we could after that, and I’m happy that we could at least get some points in the end, but overall it was disappointing.”

Felipe Massa Sergio Perez

Felipe Massa, who finished tenth after fading towards the end of the race with heavy tyre degradation, explained that problems with keeping the rubber alive cost Williams as he and Bottas fought with Perez and Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen.

He said: “Trying to look after the tyres until the end and checking the tyre pressures while we were racing was tough. It was difficult to stay out long enough on track.

“When the tyres were there we were fighting for a great position but when the tyres went off we just couldn’t fight anymore.”

Battle resumes at Monza

The next chapter in the fight over fourth place will take place this weekend at Monza. The 5.793-km circuit, located just north of Milan, is famous for it’s a high-speed layout – a characteristic that Force India team boss Vijay Mallya believes will help his squad push on from its high finishes at Spa.

Vijay Mallya

He said: “Monza is a track that rewards top speed and pushes the engine to its limit. Given our competitive form in Spa, I’m confident we can keep up the momentum this weekend.”

Mallya also described how Force India needs to keep working hard to hold onto fourth place, a result that would be the team’s best ever in F1 after it finished fifth in the constructors’ championship last season.

He said: “To be fourth in the championship is a fantastic feeling for the team, but it will mean nothing unless we are in this position after Abu Dhabi. The battle in the midfield is getting closer [and] the gaps are getting smaller and the margins of error disappearing.

“We know some tracks will work really well for us and we will keep pushing hard all the way.”

Pat Symonds

Williams’ chief technical officer Pat Symonds also hoped his team could enjoy a successful outing at the Italian Grand Prix and use the five points it did score from the double points finish in Spa as momentum to take into the final eight F1 events in 2016.

He said: “Over the last few years we have had good results at Monza, and our hope is to consolidate on a good result from Belgium and push hard into the remaining races of the season.”

Symonds also described how the high-speed Monza circuit would help teams with powerful engines, and that a one-stop strategy may be the way to go in terms of race strategy because the track’s long straights and low cornering speeds cause “relatively low tyre energy”.

Italian Grand Prix 2015

He said: “The circuit rewards strong power units and high efficiency, particularly low drag. In terms of strategy, the pit loss is quite high with the long pitlane situated alongside a fast straight.

“Low cornering speeds equate to relatively low tyre energy and so there is therefore a strong tendency to try and achieve a one-stop race.”

Update on Magnussen

Ahead of the trip to Monza, Renault provided an update on Magnussen’s condition following his crash in last Sunday’s race.

A team statement explained that he had heavily bruised his left ankle but tests showed that had not suffered a fracture or serious injury and he was released from hospital the same day and returned home to Denmark. The 23-year-old has since undergone further checks in Denmark that indicate he is able to race at the Italian Grand Prix, but the FIA will confirm if he is indeed fit to compete following a final assessment in Monza on Thursday.

Kevin Magnussen

“I’m feeling much better, which is very good news,” said Magnussen. “I’ve had several checks that show I am fit to race in Monza and I am sure I will be in the car this weekend. We were running in the top ten in Belgium and I’m very motivated to repeat this again in Italy.”

What do you think the result of the Belgian Grand Prix does to the Force India vs Williams battle? Do you expect Williams to fight back or will Force India hang on for its best ever result over an F1 season? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below or head over to the JAonF1 Facebook page for more discussion.
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