One of the stars of last year’s Russian Grand Prix was Sergio Perez, who scored both his and Sahara Force India’s most recent podium finish with third place.
But it’s been a genuinely challenging start to the year for both the Mexican driver and the team itself. Perez is yet to score a point through the first three races and outside of Nico Hulkenberg’s seventh place in Melbourne, he hasn’t banked points either.
It’s an important weekend for both drivers – it’s each of their 100th Grand Prix weekend although it is not their 100th Grand Prix start (Perez didn’t start 2011 Monaco and Canadian GPs, nor the 2014 Malaysian GP; Hulkenberg didn’t start the 2013 Australian and 2015 Belgian GPs).
Perez is therefore motivated to end the run of tough luck at a track that has now entered into his heart for the memories provided last year.
“When I come back here and I remember my great race that I had last year, not that long ago actually. It was a great feeling, a great achievement to the team,” Perez said during the FIA Press Conference on Thursday.
“And as you say my 100th race [weekend]. It has gone really quickly, I really hope I can have a great race on Sunday to have a full achievement, you know, because my 100th race, it’s something very special as a driver to achieve and hopefully there’s hundreds more to come.”
Perez added the team needs to find race pace and improve degradation. The latter point is interesting considering Perez is renowned for his tire saving ability.
“I think we have been affected a bit by strategy sometimes, the track position we’ve been having more than our pace,” he said. “I think clearly in the last race we did a great race. I think we have improved quite a bit.
“But still we need a bit more especially in the race pace. I think our quali pace over one lap is good. We have to improve our degradation and I think we have found the issues with the car. I think it’s just a question of time how quickly we can fix them.
“We are planning to have some upgrades for Barcelona. But I’m pretty confident it will be a good season for us, although right now we have zero points. We should have a couple of points already in the pocket, but the season is very long.”
Sochi has been a notoriously low degradation circuit but Perez thinks Pirelli’s three compounds – which have helped to spice up the opening rounds of the season – should make Sochi a more intriguing affair.
“This characteristic of Pirelli bringing three compounds might create a little bit of different strategies and at the same time more excitement in the race,” he said.
“I think last year the race was very exciting – but given the conditions and what happened all through the race. I think if we have a straightforward race we might see a more interesting race than in the past years. I don’t think we’re going to see many cars on one stop this weekend.”