A surprising lack of race pace, compounded by a drive through penalty for an unsafe release in the pit lane ahead of Sergio Perez's McLaren, cost Sauber's Nico Hulkenberg a chance of points at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

The German has been on a strong run of form in recent races, seeing him surge up to eleventh in the F1 2013 World Driver's Championship, but whilst hopes were high after qualifying sixth at the Yas Marina Circuit - and starting fifth after a penalty for Lotus's Kimi Raikkonen - Hulkenberg was unable to deliver in the grand prix itself.

"I'm not quite sure what happened today. I had felt comfortable with the car all weekend, but from lap one I was struggling with it. All the balance and the confidence I had was gone today, and I don't know why," he lamented after finishing down in 14th. "I had a lot of understeer in the first two stints. I couldn't really rotate the car, which cost a lot of lap time.

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"The unsafe release during my second pit stop, which resulted in a drive through penalty, was also quite costly. Now we have to evaluate as to why the car was so different today. It is disappointing, because there was a realistic chance for points today."

Team-mate Esteban Gutierrez meanwhile finished one place better in 13th, escaping without punishment following complaints over the radio by Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton about excessive weaving.

"Obviously we were looking for a better result this weekend, so we cannot be happy. The pace is there, but qualifying yesterday affected the race today. Our strategy today wasn't ideal either," said the Mexican.

"I still had some good fights going on today though, which I enjoyed, so I will take those positives with me and look forward to Austin."

Sauber's hopes of finishing sixth in the Constructor's Championship were also dealt a further blow by Force India's double points finish, and team principal Monisha Kaltenborn acknowledged that it had been a frustrating weekend.

"We are not satisfied with a result like this, the performance the car showed on Friday and Saturday wasn't there today. The drive through penalty for Nico didn't help either and, with Esteban starting P16, it was always going to be a challenging race. This doesn't make our task for the end of the season any easier, but we expect to me more competitive again in the next two races," she summed-up.

by Philip Barclay