A puncture on lap one – after he was hit by Esteban Gutierrez at turn three – meant he dropped to the back of the pack but a strong recovery drive saw him move through the field. He took the chequered flag in 11th place but was promoted to a place in the top 10 following Daniel Ricciardo’s post-race exclusion, scoring one point.
“I think as a team we are moving in the right direction and there were lots of positives to take away from Australia,” he said. “We have seen some encouraging signs and collected a lot of data that can be put to use for the next few races, starting in Sepang.”
Looking ahead to the second race of the year, he believes Force India will be stronger in Malaysia. “I believe Malaysia can be a very good race for us,” said the 25-year-old. “I think Melbourne was a more difficult one for us and with a hotter track and more rear tyre degradation for everyone we can be stronger. I’m counting the days to Malaysia to recover what we couldn’t achieve in Australia. I have good memories of this track and I want to build on my previous results there.”
Team-mate Nico Hulkenberg finished sixth in Melbourne and is expecting this weekend’s race to be a better test for the 2014 cars. “Malaysia is going to be a tough challenge with totally different track characteristics and higher temperatures, which always leads to higher tyre degradation,” said the German.
“It should be a good test of the new cars because it’s much more open than Melbourne with a nice variation of high and low-speed corners, plus two long straights.”
Force India team principal Vijay Mallya believes the VJM07 is “clearly competitive” but says a little bit more performance needs to be found if the team wants to fight for podium finishes.
Image courtesy of Sahara Force India F1 Team