Force India's Adrian Sutil gave his team and the Indian crowd reason to cheer after the German arrived at the chequered flag in a respectable ninth place.
Sutil's result at the Buddh International Circuit is important in a number of contexts - an Indian team scoring world championship points on Indian soil, Force India clinching a further two points in their ferocious battle to keep sixth in the F1 2011 Constructors' Championship and another result further proving Force India's potential and credibility to their new partners Sahara.
The German, however, felt that due to the pace of the Toro Rosso's, ninth place was the maximum himself and the team could do - a far cry from his dream earlier last week to score a podium, even if Sutil himself described that as 'unrealistic'.
“It was quite a good race and I think we can be happy with the two points today. In the early laps I struggled with the rear of the car, with a bit of oversteer, and could not hold off the Toro Rossos who were a bit quicker today. But in the second and third stint the car balance improved and I was able to keep the Sauber [of Sergio Perez] behind me in the closing laps. We were also fortunate that [Sebastien] Buemi retired, which gave me another position,” said Sutil.
“I think ninth was probably the maximum today and I hope Vijay will have a smile on his face tonight,” the German added.
Unfortunately for team-mate Paul di Resta, his afternoon didn't unfold in the same manner after an aggressive tyre strategy didn't quite pay off for the young Scotsman, leaving him down in 13th at the flag. A slight miscalculation in tyre wear was all it took for his eventual race positioning to be compromised.
“We went for a fairly aggressive strategy today - starting on the hard tyre - and it was always the plan to come in early with the hope of a safety car. It was a gamble to get rid of the hard tyre early on, and if it had worked we would have gained a pit stop and done the race on three sets of softs, which was the quickest way. We had to do three stops because of the tyre wear, which was quite high to begin with, but got better later in the race,” he explained.
Team boss Vijay Mallya naturally had nothing but positive comments to say, commending India as a showpiece while praising his team and the driver's efforts throughout the weekend. The Indian however, remained coy on the small matter of deciding his driver line up for next season, re-iterating he will come to a decision before the Abu Dhabi GP.
“Today's Indian Grand Prix was a great event and I hope that all the fans enjoyed the day as much as I did,” Mallya reflected. “We targeted points and that's exactly what we delivered with Adrian's excellent drive to ninth. As for Paul, he performed well, but we went very aggressive with the strategy to cover the chance of a safety car. In the end it didn't work out, but we needed to cover our bases. These two points are important for our championship battle and I'm delighted that Sahara Force India will go down in the record books for scoring points in the inaugural Indian Grand Prix.
“Regarding my decision about the 2012 drivers, I have said this week that I will give an answer to the drivers before the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. I already have three excellent drivers, who are all in the running, and the decision ahead will not be an easy one,” Mallya concluded.
by Simon Evans