Force India were left disappointed at the end of the Canadian Grand Prix, not because of the troubles it is having in the 2018 Formula 1 season, but because for only scoring two points in the race when they had the pace to achieve more.
Despite not having the new spec engine from Mercedes, the team looked well placed in the Top 10 after the practice sessions. They made it to Q3 as well with both cars as Esteban Ocon finished eighth with Sergio Perez in 10th.
The Frenchman then had a solid start to the race on Sunday when he cleared Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg on the opening lap to be seventh. He kept the position from both Hulkenberg and Carlos Sainz for several laps until his pit stop.
The team pitted Ocon on Lap 11 to perform the undercut. Renault covered it up pitting Hulkenberg on the following lap with the German coming out ahead of Ocon due to a slow stop from Force India.
The rear jack faltered for a split second, enough for Ocon to lose time and a place to Hulkenberg. To add insult to the injury, Sainz also came out ahead of Ocon on Lap 13 – despite both the Renault having slower stops as well, but faster than Ocon.
The Frenchman was stuck behind Haas’ Romain Grosjean then, who went for a late stop. He tried to pass Grosjean several times but couldn’t find a way past. It was too late in the end as Hulkenberg and Sainz built a decent buffer with Ocon having to settle for ninth.
“It was a fantastic first lap as I managed to get ahead of the Renault which was the target,” said Ocon. “I was then perfect ahead of them. I did a good lap before my stop and I was going to come out ahead of them [through undercut].
“But unfortunately, something held us back from the pit stop and we lost couple of seconds. The race was done from there. They [Hulkenberg and Sainz] both past me in the pits. I came close to catching Sainz in the final few laps.
“But it wasn’t possible to overtake, especially after he cut the track and gained some time on the final lap when I was about to overtake him. It’s a shame because the strategy should have worked really well.
“I will focus on the positives because it’s been a strong performance by the team this weekend. We can be satisfied with what we have done here. The pace has been competitive, but we need to keep pushing.”
On the other hand, Perez’s race was compromised after his tangle with Sainz on re-start. The Mexican tried a move on Turn 1 but they made contact which forced Perez off-track and he dropped down to 14th as a result.
The Mexican urged for a penalty to Sainz but the stewards deemed it as a racing incident. “I managed to pass Carlos [Sainz],” he said. “I was very surprised when he hit me because I gave him more than enough room and I was ahead: that wasn’t good enough and that’s why I asked for a penalty on the radio.
“I was able to save the car [from crashing] but by then my race was compromised. We tried something different with the strategy – going for a two-stopper – but it wasn’t enough to get back in the points.
“Overtaking was impossible, with these cars you can’t follow another car and pass them unless you have a big advantage. It’s a shame because I feel we had the pace to be mixing with the Renaults and we should have scored some good points.”
The two points keeps Force India in sixth with a total of 28 from seven races, but they are now 28 points behind Renault in the fight for fourth, while they sit 12 behind McLaren and nine ahead of the tied pair of Toro Rosso and Haas.