Perez stars to score Force India’s first podium in 5 years

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Despite all eyes being on the remarkable battle at the front between Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton, Sergio Perez claimed a brilliant third place finish in today’s Bahrain Grand Prix, marking Force India’s first podium finish in almost five years.

In fact, it was just the second podium in the history of the team. Giancarlo Fisichella had the honor of scoring the first for Force India at the 2009 Belgian Grand Prix, and despite many great drives and close calls since, the team has not managed to reach the top three.

Today in Bahrain, though, both Perez and teammate Nico Hulkenberg performed admirably to fight for the final podium position. After the safety car period, Hulkenberg was unable to hold back Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo, who then set his sights on Perez in third place. However, he could not get past the Mexican driver and was forced to settle for fourth place come the checkered flag.

Just as Hamilton and Rosberg fought for position at the front, Perez and Hulkenberg were side-by-side for most of the race on Sunday evening. Both drivers kept the racing fair, though, and the two stop strategy worked well for the team as Williams – who also appeared to be in the hunt for a podium finish – faded badly after stopping three times. Felipe Massa eventually crossed the line in seventh place ahead of Valtteri Bottas, who was eighth.

However, Force India is still waiting to taste champagne for a second time in Formula 1. With Bahrain being a dry state, rosewater is sprayed on the podium, although it is unlikely that the team will have been too disappointed about that in the wake of such a good result.

This result also marks Perez’s first podium finish since the 2012 Italian Grand Prix, having failed to finish any higher than fifth last year with McLaren.

Having taken Perez on after his sacking by McLaren, team principal Vijay Mallya will be delighted with the result that proves the Mexican driver has not lost any of his touch in his year away. The team has now risen to second place in the constructors’ championship, trailing only behind the dominant Mercedes team.

‘Game-changing’ multi-year agreement will take INDYCAR, NBC Sports ‘to the next level’


NEW YORK – As the fourth Nor’easter in three weeks bore down on the Big Apple, it was tough to spot people that were clearly in a good mood.

But Jon Miller, president of programming for NBC Sports and NBCSN, was clearly in a good mood.

On Wednesday morning at 10 am ET, we all found out why: NBC will become the exclusive home of the IndyCar Series and the Indianapolis 500, starting in 2019.

The new three-year deal not only makes “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” part of the network’s “Championship Season” – its collection of high-profile championship events from May to July – but also reaffirms NBC’s status as the home of motorsports television in the United States.

That status is something Miller doesn’t take for granted.

“It’s important people know that storytelling is in our DNA, and motorsports lends itself very well to storytelling,” Miller said as he, INDYCAR CEO Mark Miles and driver James Hinchcliffe made a snowy trek to the New York Stock Exchange to promote the deal on CNBC’s “Squawk on the Street.”

“We’ve had great success with the second half of the entire NASCAR season, and then we’ve had half of the IndyCar package [since 2009] … But we never had the real meat of the series and that didn’t set anybody up for success.

“Having the entire package of IndyCar now – all 17 races, qualifying, practice, you name it – really sets IndyCar on a strong path and solidifies NBC’s position as the home of motorsports. I think it becomes a property much like the Premier League, the NHL, and even the Olympics and the Triple Crown. We have 100 percent of the media opportunity and we can put all those great assets behind it.”

With the storm no doubt keeping some traders home, the floor of the NYSE was relatively subdued. But that made it no less important to be at the heart of Wall Street. Miles and his team are pursuing a new title sponsor for the IndyCar Series to replace Verizon, which will fully focus its efforts in the series with the powerhouse Team Penske going forward in 2019.

The new deal – which includes 8 races per year on the NBC network (with the remaining races going to NBCSN), live streaming of all races, and a direct-to-consumer package with NBC Sports Gold – gave Miles plenty to push for any potential backers. As for Hinchcliffe, he held his own nicely in an interview that also explored IndyCar’s global ambitions, the impact of technology on the sport, and of course, his spin around the ballroom on “Dancing with the Stars.”

On the ride back to 30 Rock, Miles was confident that NBC can play a big role in attracting a sponsor that can help the series keep growing.

“With respect to our work in finding the best title sponsor, it’s really important – and this has not been talked about much – but we expect to work with hand in glove with NBC’s sales,” he explained. “We have the opportunity to create packages which are both broadcast sponsorship and series sponsorship, I think, in a way that doesn’t come along very often.

“Usually, the media deal and the sponsorship deal doesn’t align like this, so we’re really excited about the offering we’ll have and the approach to the market we can take.”

Should the partnership with NBC bear fruit on that front and others, it will only add to the upswing that the IndyCar Series has had in recent years.

Hinchcliffe has been a witness to that. He entered the series in 2011, when it was trying to find its footing after the sport’s reunification three years earlier. After 13 years of CART vs. the Indy Racing League, getting everything back under one roof was not a smooth process.

But fast-forward seven years, and things have changed for the better. TV ratings and digital viewers have gone up. Race scheduling has become more stable and enhanced with the return of traditional open-wheel markets. And this year’s debut of the universal aero kit aims to pump up the action on the track, while also giving the cars a cleaner, meaner look.

Now, with NBC all in, Hinchcliffe is bullish on his sport’s future.

“This is a game-changing thing for us,” he declared. “If you look at the last four or five years, we’ve seen a steady growth in pretty much every measureable metric that there is – in a time where, globally, motorsports is in a bit of a downturn.

“The fact that IndyCar was able to rally against a global dip in motorsports interest, attendance, sponsorship – it speaks volumes to what we have been doing and this is just gonna take us to that next level.”