Although Force India arrive in Australia very much on the back foot, both Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez are determined to rise above…
Nico Hulkenberg: "The first race of the season is always a special occasion: a race you really look forward to for a long time. You have a new car to push to the limit in race conditions for the first time, you are often working with new people in the team and it's the first occasion to spend a race weekend with them: there is always a lot to keep you excited in addition to the regular weekend activities. As a driver, the first race is very interesting – we are as curious as anybody to see where everyone really is compared to the others.
“Albert Park is a pretty nice track and a great venue to start the season. There are plenty of interesting corners, but if I had to pick my favourite part of the lap I would choose the section between turns nine and twelve in sector two – the slow chicane leading to the straight and that fast left-right combination. It's a track with a few good overtaking spots – turn three and 13, the right-hander after the back straight, come to mind. A lot depends on how the tyres are degrading because being on different strategies can open up new opportunities. Having good downforce is essential and is the main priority when setting up the car.
“I haven't been very lucky in Melbourne in the past, but I have very good memories from last year's race. We finished sixth in our first race with the VJM07 – and considering that I had never managed to finish more than one lap in Australia until then, that was a quite welcome development! It was a very good race and I hope we can have another one this year.
“The Australian Grand Prix is a great event, not just for the race, but because of the city and the public. I really love Melbourne and Australia in general. The vibe of the whole country is great; the people are friendly and it’s one of my favourite places to visit. I am also very fond of Sydney: I often go there for a couple of days before the race weekend and I have a lot of friends there. I really enjoy the cool and relaxed Australian lifestyle.”
Sergio Perez: The Australian Grand Prix is one of my favourite races because it’s one of those events in which everything comes together: the excitement of a new season, a great track and a fantastic city.
“Albert Park is a special circuit and it's great to get back to action on such a challenging track. Even though it is classified as a street circuit, it doesn't really feel like one – there are only a few corners in which you get close to the walls. Driving on it, it feels like a permanent track, although if you make a mistake you realise pretty quickly how close the walls really are!
“There are many difficult corners and it is not easy to get a perfect lap here: turn one, in particular, is very technical and difficult also because you can't really see the apex. It is a great feeling to get that corner right. In terms of set-up, you are mostly looking for front end grip and it is not easy to find the right balance for the car.
“Melbourne is the place where I had my first Formula One race. That’s a great memory that will stay with me forever. It's my best memory from Melbourne so far, but I hope to refresh it with some new memories soon!
“Australia is a great place to start the season. It's one of the most beautiful countries in the world and the people and the weather make it a great place to visit. It's just a shame it is so far away from my home because it’s definitely one of my favourite places. Every time we come here for the race, we also get to do some very cool activities: I once went to see the koalas and it was fantastic. I remember this experience very fondly and I definitely think the koala is my favourite Australian animal.”