MONTMELO – Sergio Perez believes that Force India is set for a difficult time at this weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix due to a lack of upgrades on the car and the nature of the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.
Despite only completing two full days of pre-season running with the VJM08 car, the team has enjoyed a solid start to the 2015 season, picking up 11 points from the first four races.
Speaking to the media on Thursday, Perez expressed his delight with the opening leg of the year, but believes that the team is in for a difficult race in Spain this weekend.
“I think the first four races have been better than expected,” Perez said. “To be 10 or 12 points behind Red Bull is a massive effort for us coming out of the first four races, so I think we need to be optimistic.
“Obviously, we’ve been lacking a lot of pace, so I think the effort that has been done in the first four races has been pretty special considering what the basic pace of the car is.
“I think this one is going to be a particularly difficult one for us considering Barcelona, how hot is the track and the level of downforce is what we’re lacking the most. I expect to have a difficult one, but on the other hand, not any more difficult than other weekends.
“So yeah, optimistic, but difficult when you don’t have any upgrades. I think some of the teams are bringing some upgrades, so let’s see what we can do.”
When asked by MotorSportsTalk if the team was focusing on damage limitation until the first major updates on the car could be applied at the British Grand Prix in July, Perez said that the team was still giving its all to fight up the grid.
“We have improved our car by quite a bit since the test, so in that respect, we should be better than we were here in the test,” he said. “Although we haven’t done any upgrades to the car, we’re learning about the car, and that’s positive.
“We’ve got some small tweaks to the rear of the car, so that’s something to try as well. We obviously are pushing very hard back at the factory, trying to bring the package altogether.
“We would love to have the package for Barcelona, which didn’t happen. I think Silverstone will be the first time we have a new package.”
Mario Andretti’s last Formula One victory is also the last by an American driver in more than 42 years on the international open-wheel road racing series.
If you had told Andretti that while he was celebrating on the Grand Prix of the Netherlands podium on Aug. 27, 1978 at the Vandzoort circuit, he wouldn’t have believed it.
“Absolutely not,” Andretti told Kyle Petty during the most recent “Coffee With Kyle” episode (video above). “It’s a shame. Somehow we have so much talent here, and either there’s no invitation or something there. But I think it’s time to give some of this young talent that, in my opinion, is absolutely capable.”
The Dutch GP was the last of Andretti’s 12 victories in F1 and came during his championship season. No one since has come close to matching his success in F1.
Andretti’s son, Michael, took a full-time ride with McLaren in 1993 but left with three races remaining in a season marred by crashes and mechanical problems.
But Mario Andretti believes Andretti Autosport has another rising star with F1-caliber ability.
“Colton Herta is one that comes to mind,” Mario Andretti said. “As a young lad, his dad sent him to Europe, he was doing Formula 3, and he knows most of the circuits there. He’s trained. He’s showed in his rookie season and won some premium races at COTA (and Laguna Seca), beat two of the very best Indy has to offer (in) Will Power and Scott Dixon.
“This is one kid I’d love to see him get a break over there to fly the U.S. colors again.”
Herta, 20, seems interested in exploring an F1 leap over the next few years. After winning Sept. 13 at Mid-Ohio from the pole position (his third career victory in the NTT IndyCar Series), the No. 88 Dallara-Honda driver is ranked fourth in the standings in his sophomore year and regarded as one of the series’ top prospects.
If #F1 wants to start looking around for an American driver, Colton Herta has a suggestion for where that search should start. https://t.co/71PVeu6aBj
Herta recently told RACER.com “I’d love to give Formula 1 a crack” but said he also would be happy driving in IndyCar and IMSA.
A naturalized U.S. citizen who told Petty about spending several years with his family in an Italian refugee camp before coming to America, Mario Andretti said F1 brought an enormous sense of patriotic pride.
“Formula One is like the Olympics in a sense,” he said. “You’re in a different country, a different continent. When you earn that highest step of the podium, they play your national anthem. That’s when you take nothing for granted. You feel like I’m representing my country, and the proudest moments are those.
“I’d just like to see some other American drivers experience that. It’s time.”
During the “Coffee With Kyle” conversation, Andretti also discussed:
–His versatility as a winner in IndyCar, sports cars, NASCAR and Formula One;
–His 1967 Daytona 500 victory and how he enjoyed racing with crew chief Jake Elder at the famed Holman-Moody team;
–Why he delayed his entry to F1 for a few years because of his earnings power in IndyCar. “I always say I’d race for free, but at the same time, you’re thinking of family and the future,” he said. “It was in the back of your mind that you can’t give up the earning power of IndyCar. That kept me from going full time in Formula One, but I always said that sometime in my career, I’d have to devote a period to Formula One.”
–On what it was like racing in an era when driver deaths were more prevalent. “If you’re going to do this, you’re not going to dwell on those negatives,” Andretti said. “There’s no way. You knew it was present. Especially in the ‘60s at the beginning of the season at the drivers meetings, you couldn’t help but look around and say, ‘I wonder who is not going to be here at the end of the season.’ We’d lose four to five guys. In ’64, we lost six guys.
“It’s something if you dwell on that, you’re going to take on a different profession. It’s a desire and love to want to drive that overcame all that and then the confidence it’s not going to happen to me. And then you pray.”