Onwards and upwards for Gastaldi and Lotus

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Lotus deputy team principal Federico Gastaldi is hopeful that the team can continue its rapid rate of development and score some more points in Monaco next weekend.

The team has fought back after a difficult winter period, with Romain Grosjean scoring its first points of the season at the Spanish Grand Prix last weekend. Although it still marks quite a come-down from the race winning exploits of the Enstone-outfit last season, Gastaldi still has high hopes of getting back to the front.

“Our only targets are to continue the upward curve in performance and reliability and to ensure we are in the best position possible to score points,” he explained in the team’s grand prix preview. “We want to get back to where we were in 2012 and 2013, which is challenging consistently at the front of the field.”

Of course, Monaco is no ordinary F1 weekend, and there has traditionally been a low number of finishers around the city streets. This could aid Lotus’ bid to score some more points, but Gastaldi is also aware of the other side of the sword.

“Monaco is so unique and distinct,” he said. “You really have to be there to understand it. The track is such a challenge for the drivers and the engineers, and the barriers are so close to punish even the slightest mistake.

“I’m not a betting man and I have been to enough Monaco Grands Prix to know that anything can happen there – and it usually does.

“This could bite us or it could help us because overtaking is so difficult.”

Drivers Romain Grosjean and Pastor Maldonado have also both set their sights on some points next weekend at F1’s glamor event. For Grosjean, it marks a year since his lowest point in Formula 1 when his career appeared to be in tatters. Since then, he has transformed himself into a mature racer that has the makings of a grand prix winner.

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.