Instead of celebrating a top-ten qualifying performance for the 2012 F1 Grand Prix of Japan at Suzuka, Force India
driver Nico Hulkenberg
was left ruing a costly error made during the morning practice session.
Hulkenberg lost the rear of his car through Degner 2, throwing him off the track 40 minutes into the one-hour session and into the carriers, damaging the front wing and the front left corner.
The damage extended to the gearbox, with the team opting to switch the unit out even though it meant incurring a five-place grid penalty that will drop Hulkenberg down to 15th on the grid for the start of tomorrow's race.
"It was not a big impact, but the angle was unfortunate and there was quite a lot to fix," explained Hulkenberg. "All credit to the boys who got me out with enough time to set a time in Q1," he said, adding that the run-up to the qualifying session had been "quite intense" as they scrambled to be ready for qualifying.
"The pressure was on to fix Nico's car in the run up to qualifying and as a precaution we had to change the gearbox," Force India's deputy team principal Bob Fernley added. "As always the boys did a fantastic job to get the car running in time and Nico was immediately on the pace."
"The car felt good straight away and we made it through to Q3, which was always the target," he continued. "We then took a strategic decision to save tyres so I didn't set a time. That opens up the strategy for tomorrow, especially because we knew I would get a five-place grid penalty for changing the gearbox. There's still a chance to get points tomorrow if we can make our strategy work."
Hulkenberg's team mate Paul di Resta has also had to overcome self-inflicted setbacks this weekend, after an early accident in Friday afternoon's practice session saw him miss out on the track time and put him on the back foot going into Saturday's activities.
"I think given what happened yesterday with losing so much track time we can be pretty happy with our performance today," said the Scot. "We have got ourselves up there, close to the top ten and in with a chance of points.
"For tomorrow it's clear that tyre wear will be a big issue for everyone, but hopefully we can use the strategy to challenge the people in front," he added. "There are some question marks going into the race because I've done no high fuel running, but we have data with the other car."