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Sergio Perez: Force India can give leading F1 teams ‘a hard time’ in 2017

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Sergio Perez is confident that Force India can give the leading teams in Formula 1 “a hard time” in 2017 as it looks to build on its best-ever constructors’ championship finish last year.

Perez led Force India’s charge to P4 in the teams’ standings in 2016 as it finished behind only Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari.

The team launched its new car for the 2017 season, the VJM10, at Silverstone on Wednesday, and Perez is confident that it can give Force India the chance to hassle F1’s established front-runners.

“I think there’s plenty of reasons to be very hopeful that we can do the next step as a team,” Perez said.

“I think in the four years that I’ve been in this organization, I’ve never seen it so stable, everyone knowing their job.

“In none of the teams that I’ve been in Formula 1 I’ve seen this level of confidence, organisation, everyone doing their jobs. So I think we have plenty of reasons to be happy for a great year.”

Force India owner Vijay Mallya has targeted a move into F1’s top three, and Perez sees no reason why the team cannot achieve this.

“Last year we finished fourth, so I see no reason why we cannot improve that,” Perez said.

“As I said before, the base is very solid. There are plenty of reasons to be hoping for that. That means a massive year for us, but I think Force India will be the big surprise this year

“I really hope that we can improve. I’m really optimistic about the car, about the season, so I do hope. It’s easy to talk now, but I have a feeling that Force India has done a tremendous job over the winter.

“I’ve seen the way everyone has worked in the team. I’ve been in talks all the time. I’ve been in the factory many times. I see what the people are doing, they’re explaining to me how the car is working, how big was the development rate for us.

“There are plenty of reasons to feel we can have a good year.”

While he is yet to drive the VJM10 on-track, Perez said that the car feels significantly quicker on the team’s simulator following the introduction of new technical regulations for 2017.

“It’s a big step from last year to this year, we think four to six seconds in margin of how much quicker the car goes,” Perez said.

“So the amount of downforce that we’re going to be generating this year is huge. Just looking at the car, it looks impressive. I think I’m going to have to go back and keep training my neck!”

Perez will get his first taste of the VJM10 car on February 27 when pre-season testing begins in Barcelona, Spain.

WATCH LIVE: IndyCar Carb Day coverage on NBCSN

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It’s Carb Day at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. And that means hours of coverage for IndyCar fans, just days away from the 103rd running of the Indianapolis 500.

Coverage on NBCSN will include the Indy Lights Firestone 100 at 1 p.m. ET, a live edition of NASCAR America from Indianapolis Motor Speedway at 3:30 p.m. ET with Krista Voda, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Steve Letarte, A.J. Allmendinger and Marty Snider, and new Indy-centric episodes of Proving Grounds and Off The Grid. Jake Query will call the Indy Lights Firestone 100 alongside analyst Anders Krohn and pit reporter Katie Hargitt.

Click here to watch online or on the NBC Sports app.

All this leads up to Sunday’s race (11 am ET on NBC), but don’t forget about Saturday’s Indy 500 parade coverage, which you can watch on NBC Sports Gold.