There are mixed feelings within the Force India camp after qualifying for the Japanese Grand Prix, which saw Paul di Resta and Adrian Sutil endure contrasting fortunes with 12th and 17th respectively. The German driver will incur a five-place grid penalty for a gearbox change, after damage sustained in an incident during final practice.
After five consecutive retirements for Paul di Resta, the Scotsman will understandably be hoping for a change of fortune during the 53-lap Japanese Grand Prix. Although he was unable to progress through to the top ten shootout, the 27-year-old felt that the team’s performance was satisfactory. Overnight the team have worked upon the Mercedes-powered VJM06 after a relatively tough start to the weekend, resulting in a more “stable and predictable” handling car. Although Force India have recently dropped behind McLaren in the Constructors’ Championship, the Silverstone-based duo will be eager to remain out of reach of the likes of Sauber who are currently enjoying a late resurgence.
“Given where we started yesterday, I think we should be pretty happy with P12.” Explained Paul di Resta, “Slowly but surely we’ve made the car more drivable and in qualifying it felt quite good. The overnight efforts of everyone at the track and back at the factory have helped dial the car into the circuit. Compared with yesterday the car feels much more stable and predictable, and that’s allowed us to get within a tenth of making Q3. I’m feeling upbeat about the race because the long runs have looked consistent and we are well placed to fight for points with a free choice on tyre strategy.”
Despite a relatively competitive qualifying performance from Paul di Resta for the Japanese Grand Prix, his team-mate Adrian Sutil endured a frustrating day at the Suzuka circuit which began with an incident during the morning’s third and final practice session. The German driver lost control of the rear of his car on the exit of Turn 14, and tapped the retaining tyre barrier which subsequently ripped off the front-wing, damaged the suspension and damaged the gearbox. This forced his mechanics to change his gearbox between final practice and qualifying, sending the German into the all-important session on the back-foot with an impending five-place grid penalty and lack of running.
This resulted in Adrian Sutil enduring a torrid opening segment to the qualifying hour, as the F1 returnee struggled with a lack of grip and ultimately ended up a highly disappointing 17th on the grid. Once the German serves his five-place grid penalty, he will find himself starting tomorrow’s race near the back of the grid amongst the likes of Charles Pic and Jules Bianchi who also have grid penalties after receiving their third reprimands last weekend in Korea.
“It’s not been an easy day.” Said Adrian Sutil, “I made a mistake this morning, damaged the car and we had to change the gearbox. I have to say a big ‘thank you’ to the team for getting the car ready in time for qualifying because they had a lot of work to do during the lunch break. In Q1 the car was quite difficult to drive, I didn’t feel comfortable and was missing the grip to be competitive. All I can do now is look forward to the race and hope we have a better day. With the grid penalty [for the gearbox change] I will be starting near the back so I need to try and deliver consistent race pace and hopefully move towards the points.”
Since Pirelli made alterations to their tyres mid-season, Force India have visibly begun to struggle after initially remaining ahead of McLaren in the Constructors’ Championship throughout the first half of the season. Now, with the resurgence of Sauber, Force India could find themselves falling even further down the Championship in what has been a highly frustrating second half to the season for the Silverstone-based outfit.
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