In a chaotic European Grand Prix, Force India drivers Nico Hulkenberg and Paul di Resta stayed out of trouble to bring home their best result of F1 2012.
Following on from a strong qualifying in Valencia, Hulkenberg took advantage of various incidents to claim a solid fifth place, despite losing two places late on to Michael Schumacher and Mark Webber, whilst di Resta was the only driver in the field who was able to make a one-stop strategy work en route
to seventh place.
Hulkenberg managed to slip under the radar in a fraught grand prix, and, had his tyres not gone off late in the final stint, he could have inherited third following the clash between Pastor Maldonado and Lewis Hamilton.
Nevertheless, the young German - who was also without KERS from early in the race - was in a positive mood after the race.
“A great result for everyone in the team today - and for me personally," he noted, "Fifth place is a great achievement after a very long and difficult race.
"The two-stop strategy worked well, but the last stint was very long and it was hard to hold off the cars behind me on fresher tyres in the last few laps.
“The race was a bit messy at times, but very entertaining - it feels great to come through and score such a good result for the team. We got a bit lucky with some cars dropping out, but we were in the right place to capitalise on things so I'm very happy about today.”
Team-mate di Resta, meanwhile, opted for a long first stint on used soft tyres, before switching to mediums for the final stint. Though the timing of the safety car didn't help his cause, he nonetheless managed to pick his way through the various incidents to finish seventh, a result that moves him onto the brink of the top ten, and also helps the team close to within a point of seventh-placed Williams in the constructors' standings.
“We went very aggressive by only stopping once and, in fact, we were the only car to pull off this strategy," the Scot pointed out, "Of course, when you're stopping once you really don't want a safety car period and it certainly hurt my race and cost me some track position. But, with the way the race unfolded, we can't be too disappointed to finish seventh.
“It's great to have another two-car points finish. On the whole, our relative pace through the race was strong, but it was hard to keep the tyre performance towards the end and I was really fighting the car in the closing laps. There was some attrition ahead of us, but we were there to pick up the points when it mattered.”
It was a welcome boost for the team two weeks ahead of what is, to all intents and purposes, its home race. It was around this time last year that Force India began to pick up and push forward in the constructors' championship, and Vijay Mallya and co will hope for a repeat performance.
by Philip Barclay