The Friday before the race, Lastwordonsports.com wrote that should Sahara Force India and McLaren find themselves fighting for track position, viewers would be treated to a spectacular battle.
That potential in that scenario was realised in a thrilling battle between former team-mates Sergio Perez and Jenson Button, from which Perez eventually emerged the victor.
As a result the team was able to claw back some ground in their campaign to regain fifth place in the Constructors’ Championship, reducing the deficit to a single point coming in to the final run of flyaway races. But it was not all good news for Force India, with Nico Hülkenberg finishing outside of the points after failing to find pace on the harder compound tyres and struggling with car balance during the race.
Slightly cushioning the impact of Hülkenberg’s woes, Force India’s get-out-of-jail card came in the form of a contentious penalty for Kevin Magnussen, dropping the McLaren driver from seventh to tenth.
Of his battle with Button, Perez said he enjoyed the scrap immensely, and the trust the two have in each other as drivers was clear.
“The most important part of the race was the fight I had with Jenson, which was really nice and reminded me of the old days,” said Perez.
“I know he is a driver that you can fight really hard and it’s always clean. At the end of the race with Kevin, I knew he had a penalty and there was no need to attack him. It meant I could focus on keeping Jenson behind me, which was not easy.”
While Perez left Monza with a smile, Hülkenberg was left rueing tyre strategy and the set-up of his vehicle. While Perez started on an old set of medium tyres, Hülkenberg started on a new set of hards that put him on the back foot early.
“I had a very good start, especially considering I was on the hard tyre, but I lost contact with the cars ahead of me quite soon because they were on the medium and I didn’t really have the same pace,” said Hülkenberg.
“It was quite difficult to manage the car, especially the rear end: I had some oversteering and it was tricky to drive. I pitted quite early as I wasn’t going anywhere on my hard tyres and we saw a good opportunity to jump people, but we still found it difficult to deal with the balance.”
The results also saw the respective Force India and McLaren team-mates leapfrog each other in the Drivers’ Championship. Perez was able to take 11th place from Magnussen on 39 points, while Button’s result allowed him to move past Hülkenberg and claim seventh in the standings on 72 points.
The Belgian and Italian Grands Prix were two races at which Force India really should have been able to stretch the VJM07’s legs and take advantage of their Mercedes power unit, but instead they failed to secure a double points finish at either event.
Team Principal and Managing Director Vijay Mallya has repeatedly said in recent times that the team “has all to play for.” We saw that attitude on the track at Monza, and now the team has to display that attitude across every aspect of the team’s performance and development in the coming races.
As the F1 circus leaves Europe for Season 2014, Force India have their work cut out for them in ironing out the problems seen in recent races if they are to have any hope of reigning in a resurgent McLaren.
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