Nico Hulkenberg says Force India simply didn’t have the pace of some other frontrunners after finishing the season opening Australian Grand Prix in the same place where he started from.
Hulkenberg, who returned to Force India this year, ran as high as fourth place after a superb start that saw him overtaking a number of cars in the first few laps. However, he was then put under constant pressure from a trail of cars led by Fernando Alonso.
Alonso along with McLaren’s Jenson Button passed the German in the pits, forcing him down into sixth place. If that wasn’t all, Valtteri Bottas swept across the Force India in the latter stages of the race, pushing the Force India driver down into seventh place.
"It looked like we didn't have the pace some others had,” Hulkenberg said. “Some cars had an advantage in terms of downforce and their corner speeds seemed to be higher. It could be better - we were lacking a bit today."
Nevertheless, Hulkenberg was content with the result, especially having not completed a single lap of the Australian Grand Prix in his previous visits.
“Seventh place is a positive way to start the season. I was very happy to see the chequered flag – the first time I’ve done so in Melbourne – and it’s important to score some good points early on. I made a strong start and enjoyed good track position for the first two stints when I was running up in fourth.”
His teammate Sergio Perez suffered a puncture on the opening lap after being hit by the Sauber of Esteban Gutierrez. He recovered from the incident to finish in 11th place, just outside of points.
“I’m satisfied to finish the race, but disappointed not to score points. My race became very difficult on lap one when I got hit by the Sauber of Gutierrez at turn three. It gave me a puncture and I had to return to the pits very slowly, which dropped me to the back of the pack,” Perez said.
“After that I just tried to keep a consistent pace on the medium tyres and I was quite fortunate that the safety car came out, which helped me recover some positions. Points were close, but my progress was hurt by being stuck behind the Sauber of Adrian for such a long time. It’s positive to finish the race because it gives the team lots of information and hopefully that will make us stronger for Malaysia.”
Team principal Vijay Mallya was pleased with the fact that his team was able to meet their target of finishing in the point.
"Starting the season with points is what we were aiming to do so we're happy with today's result. Nico drove an excellent race and was able to fight near the front for most of the race, eventually earning us six points.”
“Sergio’s race was much more challenging with a puncture on lap one making it difficult for him to show the pace of the car. The safety car allowed him to catch up, but he just missed out on reaching the top ten. Overall we are pleased to see both cars make the finish in this new era of Formula One and we have learned a huge amount.”