Force India team principal Vijay Mallya says the Mercedes-powered teams are “clearly ahead” following the final winter test of the 2014 season, adding that he made the right decision in sticking with the engine manufacturer.
The 58-year-old travelled to Bahrain on the final day of pre-season running to catch up on the team’s progress and was pleased with what he saw. He is expecting race drivers Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez to be in the points at the first race of the year in Australia, although he didn’t want to test his luck in predicting a podium.
“We are doing reasonably well,” he told the official Formula 1 website when asked if he was satisfied with the team’s running in winter testing. “Actually I am quite pleased, but largely because of the number of laps that we’ve managed to achieve. We started off being overawed by the technical challenge, but we’ve come to terms with understanding the car better.
“We are now able to run it more reliably – and the result is the many laps we’ve been able to do at the two Bahrain tests. It is a good feeling to know that reliability has been established positively. Now let’s talk about the pace: there is more to come. We had a few problems at the last Bahrain test and we still have more performance to get out of the car, so the fact that we are consistently among the top three is something that is very encouraging for the whole team. If we manage to ensure reliability – even at the current level of performance – I think when we go racing we will certainly be in the points – touch wood.”
When asked if he believes the teams running the Mercedes V6 Turbo power-unit look the most likely to score points, he replied: “Yes, I would say that my decision to go with Mercedes early last year and to sign a long-term agreement with them was the right decision – the results speak for themselves. The Mercedes-powered teams are clearly ahead and are currently more reliable than the others.”
He is expecting the serious racing to start when the sport heads to Barcelona. “The first four races present a great opportunity, particularly for the Mercedes-powered teams, because so far they are showing that they are ahead of the rest,” he said. “But in the end it will be all about – here comes the word again – reliability. You can do many fancy things during testing, but a race is a race and the conditions of a race are very different.
“By the time we get back to Europe many teams will have sorted out their issues and some big upgrades will be coming from Barcelona onwards. So yes, my guess is that these four races will be a bit of a luxury for the Mercedes-powered teams – and once we get to Europe, that is where some serious racing will start.”
Image courtesy of Octane Photographic