Change in tyres hurting Force India – Fernley

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Force India deputy team principal Bob Fernley says the changes made to the tires at the German Grand Prix were a setback for his team.

And he believes the planned changes for the next race in Hungary are “not healthy for Force India”.

Prior to the German Grand Prix the team got one or both cars into the top ten at all bar one of the preceding races. The team had amassed a 22-point margin over McLaren in the constructors’ championship.

But neither Paul di Resta nor Adrian Sutil were in the top ten in qualifying or the race. That allowed McLaren to close to within ten points of them.

“The tires obviously have an effect but how big an effect is difficult to determine.” Fernley told Sky. “Is there a great deal of point in making the effort to try and figure it out, when we’re going to have a completely new set of tires as well for Hungary?

“It was a case of trying to get through this weekend.”

“The tire is so significantly different, and the car is designed specifically around that ’13 spec. tire, that we will have to re-engage design work on something that we’d actually thought we’d stopped, because obviously we want to move on to the ’14 car,” he added.

F1 2017 driver review: Esteban Ocon

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Esteban Ocon

Team: Sahara Force India
Car No.: 31
Races: 20
Wins: 0
Podiums: 0
Best Finish: P5 (Spain, Mexico)
Pole Positions: 0
Fastest Laps: 0
Points: 87
Championship Position: 8th

A shining star in Mercedes’ junior programme, Esteban Ocon vaulted fellow youngster Pascal Wehrlein in the pecking order to secure a seat at Force India for 2017 – and boy, did he live up to the hype.

Ocon arrived at Force India with half a season of racing under his belt after his outings with Manor late in 2016, but wasted little time in settling in, scoring points on debut in Australia after winning a thrilling three-way fight with Nico Hulkenberg and Fernando Alonso.

The Frenchman spent much of the year close to teammate Sergio Perez – even if things did get a little too close in Canada, Baku and, finally, Spa, prompting the team to introduce team orders – and impressed the entire paddock with his displays.

While no podium was forthcoming, Ocon was often leading the midfield fight, enjoying three straight finishes ahead of Perez from Japan to Mexico. Given how well Perez is rated on-track in the paddock, to have convincingly beaten him in such fashion did a lot for Ocon’s reputation.

The term ‘Oconsistency’ also came into F1’s dictionary as he set a new record for consecutive finishes from his first race, with his retirement in Brazil ending the streak at 27 grands prix. It was also his first retirement in a single-seater race since the 2014 Macau Grand Prix.

The highlight moment arguably came at Monza, though, when Ocon stuck his Force India third on the grid through torrential rain in qualifying. While he would drop to P6 at the checkered flag, the display nevertheless cemented his place as one of F1’s rising stars.

Mercedes rates Ocon very highly, and with Valtteri Bottas’ future beyond 2018 already being questioned by the paddock, a good season could see the youngster move on up to the top table of F1 for 2019. His progression in the next 12 months will be fascinating to keep track of.

Season High: Lining up P3 on the grid at Monza after a rainy qualifying.

Season Low: Clashing with Perez in Baku, costing Force India a possible podium.