Nico Hulkenberg says that he and his Force India team were both surprised and delighted at the reliability that the team’s 2015 car, new for this week’s test, has been. The car has been subject to several delays, with the team missing the first test in Jerez altogether, and showing up at last week’s Barcelona test with its 2014 challenger.
The new car, the VJM08 (In-keeping with naming the chassis after team owner Vijay Mallaya) was first driven shortly before lunch time on Friday, with Hulkenberg putting in 77 laps on its debut.
Saturday saw the team and driver record the most amount of laps on any single test day, with a huge total of 157. Some doubted Force India’s potential for 2015 with just 2.5 days’ running, where some teams will have managed 16 by Sunday night. Nevertheless, Hulkenberg praised his new car’s off-the-shelf pace.
“We drove straight out of the box yesterday with nearly 80 laps, and did two and a half race distances today – no hiccups, no issues, that’s very good and positive, and we were able to do some good and proper work today, learning about the tyres and the car with the setup. It’s a litte bit similar to last year’s car, so straight away we found a good base that we can work from.
“I think it was a surprise, even for myself.
However, his view on how the car would fare during the season was distorted by the lack of running.
I think it’s impossible to judge yet where we will be in qualifying in two weeks. It’s obviously gonna be tough. It could be a challenge for us, but I’m very relaxed about it.
“In terms of positions? No idea, that will be another surprise, but Melbourne can always be mixed up conditions, the weather is sometimes a bit funny there this time of year, and I just look forward to finally starting the season again, get to the competition and be in the heat of the fight.
“We’re not going to win Melbourne, I think that’s pretty clear with how quick Mercedes is at the moment and we still have a lot of work in front of us – you’ve seen some of the problems this car has, but also some positives.
Force India have been locked in a battle for 5th with McLaren for the past two years, but when asked about the rivalry reigniting for 2015, the German admitted that it was not something on his mind.
“To be honest I’m not thinking about that at the moment, I’m thinking about us and what we need to do with ourselves in our car. McLaren – I don’t know where they stand. Obviously they had quite a troubled testing period, but I also know that the Formula 1 season is very long and a lot of stuff can happen in those 8/9 months, so I wouldn’t write them off.
The team used their 2014 car for last week’s test, and Hulkenberg said that he feels there is some familiarity in the new one, which at times feels similar to the old.
“I think given the little amount of time compared to everybody else, I feel quite comfortable and advanced in the car. The car doesn’t feel in many ways too dissimilar to last year’s car, so it’s easy to get into it, and I’m feeling really positive and happy with the feeling I get inside the car.”
Hulkenberg will hand over to Sergio Perez for the final day of testing on Sunday in Barcelona.