Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg nearly dropped the expensive Felio Siby watches they were displaying to a select audience of 28 at Scotts 27, a heritage dining restaurant, on Wednesday.
So, the natural corollary was: Would the Force India drivers drop the chance to overtake Williams for fourth place in the Formula One constructors’ championship at the Singapore Airlines Singapore Grand Prix this Sunday?
Perez laughed when posed this question. “Williams is indeed a big target for us,” said the 26-year-old. “Finishing ahead of them is what we have come here to do and for the rest of the year. But I don’t think (a) podium (finish) is a realistic target for us this weekend.”
Despite slipping back to fifth place after collecting five points at the Italian Grand Prix this month, Force India trail Williams by only three points with seven races to go.
The Silverstone-based team have a good chance to speed past their main rivals in Singapore as the Marina Bay street circuit suits their cars, although Hulkenberg remained cautious.
“It is not important for us to overtake Williams here, but it is important for us to be in front come Sunday night in Abu Dhabi (the last race of the season),” said the 29-year-old.
Perez has finished third on street circuits in Monaco and Baku this season. So, can we again expect him to stand on the podium at the Marina Bay street circuit?
“It’s a unique place, we race at night, so there are a couple of aspects we have to adapt to,” said the Mexican driver. “But Force India can do well in Singapore.”
Force India moved into fourth place for the first time this season following the Belgian Grand Prix, where Hulkenberg and Perez were fourth and fifth. But their two-point advantage turned into a three-point deficit as Williams bounced back at Monza.
Hulkenberg and Perez struggled throughout the Italian Grand Prix, failing to come to terms with F1’s Monza-specific aero package.
For Hulkenberg, the Singapore race track suits Force India to a T, and he believes a slip-up by one of the big teams could help his team achieve their target.
“Low-speed corners, twisty stuff, that’s what we found the car likes a lot,” he said.
“That’s the philosophy behind the development of the car. We should be all right in Singapore.”
The German, though, would not speculate on whether his team will finish on the podium.
“Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari are very strong,” he said. “That’s six cars already which will be difficult to beat. It is important to do our homework and prepare well and, in case they struggle and make mistakes, hopefully we profit from those.”
Force India, fifth in the standings last year, have done exceptionally well this year, despite operating on a small budget. The team that first raced in F1 in 2008 are 60 points ahead of McLaren.
Perez attributes this to “having very capable people, high-level engineering and good directions”.
He added: “Being on the podium, it is amazing what we have managed in this short period of time.”