Force India squeezes out double points finish in Spain


Noticeable rates of tire degradation proved an obstacle to Sahara Force India’s efforts in the Spanish Grand Prix, but Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg’s ninth and tenth place finishes made sure the team left Barcelona with another double points result.

“There were few surprises in this afternoon’s race and our final result of ninth and tenth is a fair reflection of the pace we have shown during this weekend,” said team owner Vijay Mallya.

“As I said yesterday, this circuit was never going to play to our strengths and yet we still managed to secure a double points finish. It means we’ve scored points in every race so far this year and this keeps up our momentum in the championship.”

Hulkenberg, who finished in the same place he started, said that Sunday’s race was “a case of damage limitation” but felt like things worked out in the end for the team.

“We knew from the early practice sessions that this wasn’t going to be our strongest track so to get two cars in the points is a positive result,” he said. “The tire degradation was high and the car was not so easy to drive, but I think everybody was struggling in the final part of the race.

“I thought we would need to make a third stop, but fortunately the tires held on and I was able to score a point. We will use all the data we got over the weekend to improve for the next few races where we hope to be a bit more competitive.”

As for Perez, who jumped two spots from 11th on the grid, he thought that the tire degradation was fine enough to warrant a less conservative approach to the race.

“Maybe if we had stopped earlier, I could have jumped ahead of some more cars because my pace was good, but it was just so difficult to overtake,” he said of his day in Barcelona.

“We knew this track would be a tough test for us, so this result is more or less what we expected here. Maybe P7 or P8 was achievable today, but we should feel quite happy to keep up our run of points.”

Force India remains fourth in the Constructors’ Championship, nine points behind Ferrari for third (66-57) as the Monaco Grand Prix looms on the horizon.

Ferrari teammates Vettel and Raikkonen fastest in rainy final practice at Australian GP

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MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Ferrari drivers Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen went one-two in the final practice session ahead of qualifying at the water-logged Australian Grand Prix on Saturday.

Vettel set a best-lap time of 1 minute, 26.067 seconds, more than 2.4 seconds faster than his teammate in second.

Both Ferrari drivers switched from their intermediate tires to the super-fast, ultra-soft tires for the final few laps of the session, testing conditions on the track after a day-long downpour left it slick and filled with small puddles.

Mercedes drivers Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton did not opt to try out their soft tires, sticking to the intermediates for the entire session. They had the seventh- and eighth-fastest times, after topping the leaderboard in practice in dry conditions on Friday.

The heavy rains subsided by early afternoon, allowing the track to rapidly dry during the third practice session and making conditions safe for drivers to test their soft tires.

Still, only a few drivers completed a timed lap with the softer compounds, with Mercedes, Red Bull and most of the others staying with their intermediates.

Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson had the third-fastest time of the session on ultrasoft tires, followed by Red Bull’s Max Verstappen on intermediates.

Hamilton remains the favorite to capture his fifth straight pole position at the Australian Grand Prix in qualifying later Saturday. He had the fastest laps on ultrasoft tires in the two practice sessions on Friday, though Verstappen was right behind him.

Verstappen and Vettel both slid on the slick track early in the third practice session, but maintained control and completed their runs without incident.

Verstappen’s teammate, Daniel Ricciardo, had the sixth-fastest time of the session. The Australian’s chances of winning his fifth career Grand Prix on his home track in Melbourne took a hit late Friday when he was assessed a three-place grid penalty for Sunday’s race.

The Australian driver was penalized for driving too fast under red-flag conditions during Friday’s second practice session because of debris on the track.