Pink Panthers Show Their Fangs in Dramatic Spa Grand Prix
Monday, 27 August 2018 | Ravenol Marketing
Force India is back as Racing Point Force India, and in their first race after being rescued from administration, the whole team came together to show what they’re capable of, with Sergio “Checo” Perez coming home in 5th, with team mate Esteban Ocon right behind him.
A dream-like qualifying session, seeing a second row lock out for the Pink Panthers in their first race back after going in administration, was enough to have the mechanics literally singing and dancing around the garage. But with some big names such as Max Verstappen and Valtteri Bottas starting out of place, how the race was run would turn out to be just as important as how they started.
With the rain from qualifying non existent and the morning fog lifted, the cars started off at lights out and Esteban immediately made a move on the inside of Sebastian Vettel’s Ferrari as he himself was making the same move on rival Lewis Hamilton. As Vettel completed his move, Esteban was forced out and then came under pressure from Checo, who managed to take the place off him.
Then first corner drama. Nico Hulkenberg was late braking and his Renault slammed into the back of Fernando Alonso’s McLaren, flipping it up into the air and onto Charles Leclerc’s Sauber. As the McLaren bounced off the halo, leaving visible black marks from the tyres, the crowd was silent in realisation of what could have been had it not been there. Leclerc limped off, and a Safety Car was necessary to clean up what was left of Hulkenberg and Alonso’s cars.
Meanwhile, an unrelated incident saw Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo and Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen come together. Both needed to back to the pits for repairs, and though they both managed to rejoin the race, the damage appeared to be terminal as they later had to retire.
After the safety car, the Pink Panthers were quickly put under pressure from Max Verstappen and by Lap 11 he had managed to get past both of them, much to the delight of the Dutch fans who turned out in such numbers that the grandstands and embankments merged into one great sea of orange.
Also making his way up through the field was Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas, who had started from the back after receiving an upgraded engine and then had to get a new front wing after being caught up in the first lap melee. With the other faster cars now out of the race, he was the only remaining threat to the Force Indias. Whilst team mate Hamilton was starting to struggle with his tyres, Bottas showed no signs of slowing down.
Despite clean pit stops, the Silver Arrow eventually made it up behind the Pink Panthers towards the end of the race, with his eyes on Checo’s 4th place. Checo found some more speed and held him off for a couple of laps, until Bottas also found some more pace, taking more than a second off him in one lap to get into the DRS zone. From there it was inevitable and on Lap 40 he smoothed his way past and off into the distance, but with a healthy gap in front to Verstappen, and the same behind Esteban to Romain Grosjean, that was it for the race. Vettel pulled off the win over Hamilton, with Verstappen taking the final spot on the podium.
The Force Indias finished 5th and 6th, the respectable 18 points haul seeing them jump up to 10th in the Constructors’ Championship after cruelly having all their points stripped as a “new entry”. Only one point behind Sauber and plenty of races left, the rejuvenated team looks like they’re at the start of a roll.
So join us next weekend at Monza for the next instalment of the team’s journey and here’s hoping there’s more good times ahead for our Technical Partners.