It looked as though everything that could go wrong for Force India
at the start of the 2013 Chinese Grand Prix
was actually turning to reality in Shanghai on Sunday, with the two team mates coming together and clashing on the very first lap.
Paul di Resta went off track after being forced wide by an attacking Adrian Sutil
at the end of the first lap. The Scot was able to rejoin the track but then had a physical scrap with McLaren's Sergio Perez.
"A difficult start to the race," conceded di Resta. "I was battling with Nico [Hulkenberg] on the opening lap, but unfortunately there was some contact with Adrian down at the hairpin, which put me on the grass and set us back three or four places. After that I was stuck in the pack, my tyres were graining, and I couldn't really make much progress."
Sutil had escaped that first clash, but was then taken out by lunging Esteban Gutiérrez going into the hairpin just five laps later. The Sauber ploughed into the back of the Force India, wrecking Sutil's wing. A return to pit lane only confirmed that the damage was terminal, even as one of the brake ducts burst into flames to add to the damage.
"A very disappointing day for me," said a downast Sutil. "Things were going well in the opening laps and then under braking for the final hairpin I got hit from behind as I turned into the corner.
"I guess Gutiérrez missed his braking point and had nowhere to go but into the back of my car," he added. "My rear wing was broken and there was no option but to stop. It's always a shame not to finish a race and I had a good chance of scoring more points today - I was on the soft tyre and the strategy looked to be shaping up well."
"Adrian was the innocent victim of Gutierrez's mistake," said Force India's deputy team principal Bob Fernley. "There was nothing Adrian could have done to avoid it but it certainly cost us a good chance of getting two cars in the points."
Sutil's exit left the Force india pinning their hopes on Paul di Resta managing to make it to the finish on his three-stop strategy which included a mid-race stint on the loathed short-lived soft option tyres.
"He was boxed in the pack early on, but the strategy came back to us at the end of the race as Paul put in a fantastic third stint on the medium tyres," said Fernley. "We left it until the last couple of laps to fit the soft tyres, but Paul had done enough in the clean air to keep [Romain] Grosjean and Hulkenberg behind him.