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'Smooth' Friday sets Force India up for solid start to 2018

Esteban Ocon (FRA) Sahara Force India F1 VJM11.
© XPB 

Force India had no complaints about its day in Melbourne, with two trouble-free free practice sessions ahead of the Australian Grand Prix.

"We achieved a lot today," said a happy Sergio Perez. "There were a lot of new parts on the car and we needed to learn quickly.

"It’s only Friday and I think we can find more performance before qualifying," he added. "That’s always been our strength as a team and we need to work hard tonight understanding the data.

"All the teams are much closer together," he continued. "We need to be perfect in qualifying because a small mistake will drop you a long way back."

Perez ended FP2 with the 12th fastest time, after his qualifying simulation was disrupted by a brief red flag. His team mate Esteban Ocon was also caught out, and ended the day 15th fastest.

"For the first day of the season it was actually quite a normal day of practice," said Ocon, who had a harmless excursion into the gravel early in the afternoon session.

"The afternoon session was a bit frustrating because of the red flag and I always seemed to be stuck in traffic.

"Tomorrow is what counts though," he pointed out. "So we need to make sure we are ready and do our homework tonight.

"We have already seen a step forward in performance compared to testing, but there is obviously some tuning to be done."

Deputy team principal Bob Fernley was also pleased with how the day had gone for the team.

“A solid start for us in Melbourne," he said. "The main job was fitting all the new aero parts to the car and starting to understand how to get the most from them.

Sergio Perez (MEX) Sahara Force India F1 VJM11.

"We made good progress with that and also worked through the usual tyre evaluation programme.

"Both sessions went pretty smoothly and we have lots of data to help us make the right decisions tonight.

"It was a shame that the red flag interrupted both drivers during their performance runs," he said of the team's only blip of the day. "But fortunately it was only a short disruption.

"It’s clearly very tight in the midfield and a tenth here and there will make a huge difference in qualifying. It’s hard to know exactly where we stand just yet and I wouldn’t want to make any predictions for qualifying."

Last year, Perez lined up in tenth place on the grid and Ocon started from 13th. Both drivers went on to finish the race in the points, and are hoping for the same success again in 2018.

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