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Chinese Grand Prix 2013: di Resta salvages Force India's day
14 April 2013
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.
"It wasn't until the third stint that I was in some clean air and the pace of the car was very strong," di Resta noted. "I was pushing all the way and I knew it would be very close after the final stop with Grosjean and Hulkenberg. But the pit crew did a top job; they kept their nerve and we managed to stay ahead of both of them."
In the end di Resta battled through to the line in the points and in eighth place, behind Toro Rosso'a Daniel Ricciardo. Not bad at all, considering that the team had been in high panic 45 minutes before the start of the race with a suspected serious fuel leak on di Resta's car that left them concerned about its reliability in the race.
"A good result in the end and a strong recovery" summed up di Resta of his performance. "If everything had gone to plan I'm sure we could have done an even better job, but it's good to pick up more points and to see our race pace right up there once again."
"It's the first time we've scored points in China so it's good to get that monkey off our back," said Fernley, adding that it was especially good to "see Paul demonstrate the inherent pace of our car" at last.
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