Pastor Maldonado ready for Bahrain’s physical challenge

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Pastor Maldonado may have not scored any points so far this season, but his main focus this weekend appears to be on taming the physical challenge that the Bahrain Grand Prix poses.

Although rain is forecast for large parts of the race weekend, the heat in Bahrain usually makes endurance and composure just as much of a challenge as racing and overtaking.

“Because the Sakhir Circuit is in the desert the track conditions can change quite a lot during the weekend, especially with the sand being blown across the surface,” explained Maldonado.

“So the teams will have to be ready to react to the different conditions. The temperatures in the cockpit are also going to be very high so as a driver you have to be prepared both physically and mentally to deal with that and I’m expecting to lose between 2 and 3kg during the race.”

Maldonado also spoke about working with the Pirelli tires, which degraded very quickly in China to cause trouble for many of the teams. The Venezuelan driver is expecting the situation to be similar in Bahrain.

“Tire degradation is also expected to be quite high at this race which can always throw up some interesting challenges for the teams.”

Despite winning last year’s Spanish Grand Prix, Maldonado has failed to impress so far this season for Williams, and they are the only team yet to score alongside Marussia and Caterham. Both Maldonado and teammate Valtteri Bottas are struggling with the FW35 car, yet they could be in a position to open their 2013 accounts relying they can keep their cool in Bahrain.

F1 2017 driver review: Sergio Perez

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Sergio Perez

Team: Sahara Force India
Car No.: 11
Races: 20
Wins: 0
Podiums: 0
Best Finish: P4 (Spain)
Pole Positions: 0
Fastest Laps: 1
Points: 100
Championship Position: 7th

While failing to hit the podium as he did in both 2015 and 2016, Sergio Perez once again finished the year as Formula 1’s leading midfield team driver, but faced a greater fight from within Force India in the shape of Esteban Ocon.

Perez has long been knocking on the door of F1’s top teams should an opportunity come up, and 2017 saw him continue his solid if unspectacular form. The dominance of Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari meant any finish higher than seventh was impressive, something he managed to do on five occasions.

But there were some missed opportunities along the way, most significantly in Baku. Force India had been quick all weekend, with Perez charging to sixth on the grid, and when drama struck at the front, he and teammate Ocon were eyeing a podium finish as a minimum.

Contact between the two forced Perez to retire and prompted Ocon to pit for repairs, leaving the team without the top-three finish it targeted heading into the season. With Lance Stroll taking P3 for Williams and Daniel Ricciardo winning the race, a maiden victory for Force India was not out of the realm of imagination.

Perez and Ocon came to blows on a number of occasions, with the final straw coming in Spa when they twice touched on-track, prompting Force India to introduce team orders. Perez finished the year 13 points clear of Ocon in the final standings, meeting his own pre-season target of 100 points, yet the Frenchman had arguably made the bigger impression at Force India through his first full season in F1.

Force India remains the top underdog in F1 with Perez spearheading its charge, but it is difficult to see either taking the final step to becoming true contenders at the front of the field anytime soon, as solid as their displays have been.

Season High: P4 in Spain after retirements for the ‘big three’.

Season Low: Losing a sure-fire podium, if not a win, in Baku after contact with Ocon.