Force India looked under-strength in qualifying at Yas Marina for the 2012 F1 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi on Saturday, with neither driver making it into Q3 and Paul di Resta even in danger of one stage of being eliminated in Q1 after getting caught up in slow traffic on his initial flying laps.
"I've been struggling with the balance and the car has been quite difficult to drive this weekend, so it was always likely to be quite a tough qualifying session, di Resta admitted after finishing in 13th place on the grid.
"We're still in a reasonable position to try and score points and I'm feeling comfortable in the new chassis," he insisted. "We will play the long game tomorrow because I think it's likely to be one of those races where tyres will probably last longer than expected."
His team mate Nico Hulkenberg
was disappointed with failing to make it through to to Q3 by just over a tenth of a second behind Pastor Maldonado, who went on to take fourth place on the grid in the final top ten shootout.
"I expected a bit more from today," Hulkenberg admitted. "But it seemed that our car was not so competitive in the cooler temperatures because I felt much happier during final practice in the sunny conditions. Maybe the lower temperatures caught us out," he mused.
That was also the theory of the team's deputy team principal, Bob Fernley.
"We were probably feeling quite optimistic of getting at least one car into Q3, but it seems that the cooler conditions this evening didn't play into our hands," he said. "Nico was just a tenth away from making the top ten, while Paul was not far behind, and that was about where our performance level was today."
Hulkenberg's qualifying position does put him in the best place on the grid of those not already tied into their tyre strategies for Sunday's race, however.
"I will start from eleventh, just one position away from the points, and I have a free choice of tyres," he said. "Hopefully we can use that to our advantage to come away with some points."
"I think we have a good race car and both drivers were very consistent during their long runs yesterday so there's every reason to hope we can be strong tomorrow," agreed Fernley. "We've got the flexibility with the strategy on both cars and will be targeting points in the race."