Perez: Force India worse than expected in Australia
Sergio Perez has admitted his Force India team was "definitely behind" where it expected to be in the opening qualifying of the Formula 1 season in Melbourne.
Perez and teammate Esteban Ocon qualified only 13th and 15th respectively, although they will each gain a spot from a gearbox penalty for Valtteri Bottas.
“It’s definitely behind where we expected to be,” said Perez. “We thought we were going to be a bit closer to the fight, but we simply were not.
"It’s a shame, but the season is long, and hopefully we can recover the pace of the car.
“That’s what we’ve got at the moment, I think that lap and the balance I had was pretty strong, so unfortunately there is not something that we can fix quickly, it’s simply where we are.
"We have been in this position before. Normally we are not the best team in Melbourne, but hopefully we can be the best one out of the rest by the time we are in Abu Dhabi.
“It’s a long season ahead of us, there are prospects coming up, so tomorrow it’s a race where if we make it to the finish line, we have a good strategy, and hopefully we can get some points.”
Perez insisted that he wasn’t discouraged by the performance.
“I wouldn’t say so, I’m optimistic," he said. “I’m looking forward to it. The lap that I did today makes me smile from the bad day we had, but I know there is a long season ahead of us, and this has just started, so there’s plenty of races to go.”
Force India's new VJM11 had a quiet pre-season, as the team pinned its hopes on a major upgrade package brought in for the season opener.
That package "did bring a performance gain", according to Ocon - who believes the team can still make significant progress compared to where it is currently.
“You have to be optimistic, it’s not over but it’s only the first race,” said the Frenchman. “Last year we were not great either here, there will be some tracks that will suit us more and last year it did come more towards us later in the season.
"So it’s not over yet, there’s 20 races to go and a race tomorrow, so we try to get the most here and come back stronger in the next race.
“If we look at ourselves, the package did bring a performance gain, so that was a good step in practice, now we need some more to fight with the one in front.
"On our pure development, we did a good job this weekend, we just need a bit more now.”
Additional reporting by Edd Straw
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