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JANUARY 29, 2018

Halo caused teams a lot of work says Szafnauer

Integrating 'Halo' with this year's cars is a huge challenge for designers.

That is the claim of Force India's sporting chief Otmar Szafnauer, referring to the controversial driver protection that is mandatory from 2018.

"The time pressure was created by the Halo," he told Auto Motor und Sport.

"We got the final specifications very late, but one also cannot underestimate the influence. It weighs 14kg and the FIA's stress tests are strict. There is a lot of work to do," Szafnauer added.

"Then there is the aerodynamic damage, which is more than we had thought."

Last year, Force India finished 'best of the rest' behind the top three teams and expects Williams to be an obvious challenger in 2018.

"They use the same engine as us, and now Paddy Lowe and Dirk de Beer - people from Mercedes and Ferrari - are involved. They bring experience from winning teams," he said.

"We have the better driving pairing, but if they have a really good car that can make all the difference."

Szafnauer said Renault will be another tough challenger in 2018.

"They have pumped a lot of money and people into their project," he explained. "We have the Mercedes (engine) advantage but it's not as big as many people believe."

As for F1's forthcoming political struggle, Szafnauer denies that Force India will vote with its engine partner Mercedes.

"We pay for our engines so we have our own opinion," he said. "Only when they give us the engine can they also tell us what opinion we should have."

And finally, Szafnauer said he is not losing sleep over the possibility that Force India could lose Esteban Ocon to Mercedes after this season.

"We have a contract with Esteban for 2019 but of course this possibility exists," he said.

"It's not nice to build up a driver and then a bigger team takes him away, but you have to live with it. F1 is not a children's birthday party," Szafnauer smiled.

(GMM)