Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg is confident that the team is in good shape ahead of the new F1 season, which gets underway in just fourteen days’ time at the Australian Grand Prix.
The German driver, who returns to Force India in 2014 after a year away at Sauber, finished testing today in Bahrain in fourth place on the timesheets and 74 laps under his belt. Although he did not manage to complete a race simulation, Hulkenberg is pleased with the work that the team has completed across the winter period.
“The final day of testing went pretty well,” he explained. “In the end we didn’t do the race simulation, but we did some long runs and signed off a lot of other things on the job list. We didn’t do as many laps as yesterday, but we still made progress and learned some new things.
“It’s been two good days for me and I’m feeling pretty satisfied. You always want more time to prepare, but I think we’re in good shape. The car has come a long way since the first Jerez test and we have made progress every day.”
Like the other Mercedes-powered teams, Force India has excelled during the testing period. Sergio Perez finished as the quickest driver on the first two days of the final test in Bahrain, and with such a capable driver line-up in 2014, the team could be set to make a big step forwards and improve on sixth place in the championship last season.
Two-time Formula 1 World Champion Fernando Alonso enjoyed his first outing with United Autosports, with whom he will contest the 2018 Rolex 24 at Daytona, in their Ligier JS P217 LMP2 chassis.
The McLaren Formula 1 driver completed the test at Motorland Aragon in Spain alongside co-driver Phil Hanson, who will be a teammate with Alonso at next year’s 24-hour Daytona enduro. Filipe Albuquerque, a former GT class winner at the Rolex 24, was also on hand to help Alonso and the team ahead of Alonso’s first run in an LMP2 car, which comes only a couple days after he made his LMP1 testing debut with Toyota. Albuquerque races with Mustang Sampling Racing in IMSA, but will return to United’s European Le Mans Series program for all but one race in 2018.
“I had a great first test with United Autosports. Obviously, we are on a really tight schedule between now and Daytona, but it was nice to jump in the car for the first time,” said Alonso, who will rejoin the team at the official Roar Before the 24 test on January 5-7.
Alonso added, “There’s quite a few switches and things to study so it was important to do this initial shakedown before Daytona, so I could fully learn about the car. I’m happy with everything – the car felt great and the team were fantastic. The atmosphere here is wonderful, like a big family, so today has been amazing. I cannot wait for Daytona.”
Team owner Zak Brown, who also serves as executive director of McLaren Technology Group and helps lead the McLaren Formula 1 effort, shared Alonso’s enthusiasm and was not surprised he was able to acclimate himself relatively quickly.
“Fernando’s first test with United Autosports went awesome as expected. He is a world champion and it is a pleasure to have him in our car,” he said of Alonso’s debut with the team.
Alonso is currently schedule to contest the Rolex 24 with the aforementioned Hanson and McLaren test driver Lando Norris.