Nico Hulkenberg put in his drive of the year with a superb run at the front of the 2012 F1 Brazilian Grand Prix at Interlagos on Sunday, before a collision with Lewis Hamilton's McLaren cost him his chance of a podium finish.
"That was a lot of fun - very entertaining and there was so much happening all the time!" said Hulkenberg on his final race outing with the Force India team before his switch to Sauber in 2013.
"We had a great chance to finish on the podium today, but it slipped away, which is a shame," he added, after finishing in fifth place despite leading for 30 of the 71 laps at Sao Paulo - more even than race winner Jenson Button.
Hulkenberg got a great start from sixth place on the grid and immediately gained two positions, before going on to pass Fernando Alonso for third place and then take advantage of Lewis Hamilton's pit stop to lip into second behind Button when the pair opted to stay out on slick tyres despite increasingly wet conditions.
"In the early laps it was difficult to keep the car on the track in the very damp conditions," he said. "But it was not really wet enough for intermediates and I stuck with the slicks."
Hulkenberg's chance to take the lead came on lap 18, and the young German seized it with both hands. "It was the right decision [to stay out] and soon I was leading the race," he said. "I felt comfortable [leading]."
Hulkenberg stayed in the lead for the next 30 laps, including the seven laps run behind a safety car for debris on the track that allowed him and Button to get new tyres in a 'free' pit stop, but then lost the top spot to Button's Mclaren team mate Lewis Hamilton lon lap 48.
"Eventually I made a small mistake and Lewis got ahead of me," he admitted. "I managed to stay with him and was fighting to get the lead back when we touched.
"It's hard to say what happened but I was making a move going into turn one and had a slightly loose rear," he added. "I was about to turn in and suddenly there was contact. It's a shame for both of us because we were having a great battle."