Force India chief hails best ever start

03 Apr 2014 12:16

Force India chief Vijay Mallya has described his team's start to the Formula One season as the best ever with back-to-back performances which have bettered even world champions Red Bull.

Nico Hulkenberg's fifth place finish in Malaysia, which backed-up his solid sixth spot at Australia's season-opener, has steered Force India into fifth place overall in the constructors standings.

Only heavyweights Mercedes, McLaren, Ferrari and a rejuvenated Williams are ahead while Red Bull are a place behind.

"We've had our best start to a season in our history, since the Jordan times, and despite only one car finishing in Malaysia we are sitting in fifth in the championship. Let's hope we put on a strong show going forward," said Mallya.

Had Sergio Perez been able to race in Malaysia -- his efforts came to a dispiriting end in the Sepang pit lane when his car stalled -- then Force India may have even edged into fourth place in the championship.

Hulkenberg, who returned to the team after one season with Sauber, has won rave reviews from Mallya.

The 27-year-old German driver has endured a stop-start career in the sport, spending the 2010 season at Williams with whom he grabbed his sole pole position at the Brazilian Grand Prix. It was Williams' first pole in five years.

He then spent 2011 as test driver with Force India before getting a championship drive in 2012 followed by his year-long stay at Sauber where he had replaced current teammate Perez who had decamped to McLaren.

"We always knew that we could be competitive and were capable of fighting with the traditional frontrunners, as Nico demonstrated once again in Malaysia," added Mallya.

"He's got that huge competitive spirit in him and he's obviously hugely talented. In the wet, in the dry, whatever the tyre compound, he's there.

"It was sad that we encountered some unexpected issues with Checo's car and that he had to sit out the race, otherwise judging from what Nico did, we could easily have expected a strong double points finish."

Although Mercedes have opened the season with wins in both races so far, Force India briefly led in Malaysia thanks to Hulkenberg's efforts before he had to pit.

"It's always nice to see a Force India in front. You can't just find yourself leading a Grand Prix by accident," said Mallya, who will look to build on the team's promising start in Bahrain this weekend.

"Things have got to be in the right place at the right time, and you must be good enough to be able to be up there in front. We've still got some catching up to do if we want to be a regular podium contender. We've got our plans for that."