SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS, Belgium (Reuters) - Force India basked in the limelight at the Belgian Grand Prix, only days after being rescued from the threat of closure, after Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez qualified third and fourth in a rain-hit session.
The team, now owned by a consortium led by Canadian billionaire Lawrence Stroll, are considered a new entry and have lost all the constructors’ championship points won in the opening 12 races.
“Not bad for a new entrant,” quipped newly-appointed principal Otmar Szafnauer, who was previously the team’s chief operating officer and has been at the forefront of the rescue operation.
The qualifying was Force India’s best performance since 2009 when Italian Giancarlo Fisichella took pole position, also at the Spa circuit.
The Mercedes-powered team had already looked strong in practice and could lift themselves off the bottom of the table on Sunday, with ninth-placed Williams having only amassed four points so far.
“It’s awesome to be in P3 (third place) after such a difficult time with the team we had,” French driver Ocon told reporters.
“But now we are starting afresh and definitely happy with that result, third wasn’t expected today. The job did a fantastic guys... the guys did a fantastic job! Sorry, it’s the emotion,” he exclaimed.
Perez recognised he had been lucky not to crash early in the final top 10 shootout in chaotic conditions, with a big moment down and up through the famed Eau Rouge sweep.
“So many emotions are going through my head — it has been a really difficult session, which makes the result even sweeter,” said the Mexican, who equalled the best grid position of his career.
“It’s a great result for the team – for the new owners, the old ones who built the team to what it is now, and everyone who works so hard every day.”
Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Pritha Sarkar