Formula 1 mid-season review: Force India
8 August 2014 – As the Formula 1 fraternity enjoys the summer break, GPUpdate.net takes the opportunity to analyse team and driver performances over the first 11 rounds of the 2014 season. In the latest instalment, we look at how Force India continues to surpass expectations, bolstered by drivers Nico Hülkenberg and Sergio Pérez.
Force India: 8/10
Force India doesn't harbour the resources of teams higher up the grid, yet for most of the season it has been punching above its weight. Fifth in the Constructors' standings is a fair reflection of its efforts this year and many would label it as one of the most impressive outfits when weighing up results against money. Some at the squad feel that the chassis isn't particularly strong – its performance at the high-downforce Circuit de Catalunya is indicative of this – and that it is being significantly aided by the Mercedes power unit; whilst that is undoubtedly prominent, Force India has still regularly done the job. Early season tyre advantage helped too, with its drivers able to stop once fewer than a clutch of rivals and profit. In hiring Nico Hülkenberg and Sergio Pérez, co-owner Vijay Mallya has also belied the trend from some teams to chase money over talent and his faith in his young chargers has been largely justified. Force India's issue now is, despite its impressive start to the year, whether it can catch up with a resurgent Williams, or perhaps more pressingly, repel McLaren, which has far superior developmental skills over the course of a season. Sixth in the championship would still represent a solid year, but considering its start, the way it turned heads and its driver pairing, does it have the impetus to finish higher? Or is this a glass ceiling that cannot be broken without massive and ultimately unsustainable investment?
Nico Hülkenberg: 8.5/10
Hülkenberg's voyage of Formula 1's midfield teams continues in 2014 and the German has built on his promise, with his points-scoring streak only coming to an end following his clumsy shunt with team-mate Pérez in Hungary. In fact, in the first seven races, Hülkenberg only finished outside of the top six once, an impressive feat considering the resources of other teams. When you look at the fluctuating fortunes of some outfits and drivers in 2014, his early season consistency, achieved through a mixture of tyre preservation and a blend of attacking and defensive skills, is eye-catching. Recent races, in which Force India has regressed slightly, have prevented Hülkenberg from reaching the levels of the early season rounds, which means he may well be overlooked in the driver market for another year. Hülkenberg has generally exerted authority over Pérez, although at some circuits the Mexican has extracted more performance in race conditions – a trait which Hülkenberg perhaps needs to work on. Nonetheless, to sit seventh in the championship standings with 69 points is exemplary. But moving forward, while Force India is a respectable team, Hülkenberg is the same age as Sebastian Vettel and his talent merits a race-winning machine.
Sergio Pérez: 7.5/10
Still only 24 after a whirlwind couple of years, Pérez has frequently flattered to deceive in 2014; his deserved podium in Bahrain was claimed at a race in which tyre preservation was crucial – this is Pérez's strong point, as shown again in Canada and Austria where he made the softer tyres last longer than his rivals. However, this is only useful up to a point, as Pérez lacks the ultimate pace and consistency of team-mate Hülkenberg. Over half of his 29 points tally for the season so far came courtesy of that podium finish in Bahrain. His driving style means that while he can save tyres in the race, he is frequently unable to extract the best from them over a single lap in qualifying and this leaves him playing catch-up. There has been misfortune, such as being unable to start in Malaysia, but all too often Perez becomes a magnet for trouble. In Australia he suffered a puncture after colliding with Esteban Gutiérrez, a first lap incident with Jenson Button left him out in Monaco while contact at the opening corner with Jean-Éric Vergne in Britain dropped him down the order. Again, this is the danger when qualifying in the midfield, rather than a few positions higher up the grid. Other hefty shunts too, such as in Canada and Hungary, have cost him and Force India points. Pérez is a good feisty midfield driver, but after blowing his McLaren chance, is this ultimately his level?
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