Despite being keenly aware of how the Circuit of the Americas didn't suit their car, which was brought home to them all too keenly as they struggled through Friday practice, Force India still wasn't expecting to see one of its drivers eliminated in Q1 and forced to take up a 16th place spot on the grid for Sunday's United States Grand Prix in Austin, Texas.

It's a disappointing result today," said Adrian Sutil, the man left on the sidelines prematurely on Saturday afternoon. "The car has been quick through all the sessions, but things didn't go to plan today.

"I had to overtake a lot of traffic on my quick lap in Q1, including a Marussia going into the final corner, and that cost me the chance of making Q2," he explained, referring to Max Chilton who has since been handed a drive-thru penalty to serve at the start of the race for baulking not only Sutil but also Pastor Maldonado during qualifying.

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Even so, Sutil thought he would have time to put in one last flying lap to get himself out of trouble - only to find himself sailing off the track at speed going into the first left-hander at the top of the hill.

"I [had just] started another lap and suffered a brake disc failure on the front right, which ended the session for me," he confirmed. "So I'm starting in [16th] and I just hope we can do something with the strategy to try and get up into the points tomorrow."

At least Paul di Resta had a better time of things. After finding it hard to get to grips with the track on Friday, Saturday's pace offered more reason for optimism.

"I'm reasonably happy with today's result because this is a track that does not particularly suit my driving style," he agreed. "The wind picked up quite a bit before qualifying, which made the conditions tricky and I think we made the most of that.

"We out-qualified some quick cars today and in the end I was just a tenth away from making Q3," he pointed out, adding that his final run in Q2 had been compromised by traffic which thwarted his hopes of pushing even faster.

"I was planning to go for a final quick lap in Q2, but I came across Lewis on my out lap, who was cooling his tyres," di Resta said. It meant my out lap was compromised so we aborted the run."

But that cloud comes with a notable silver lining: "We can make a free choice on tyres tomorrow and we've shown recently that our performance on race day has been our strength. If we can make a good start and optimise the strategy, then points will be within reach," he added..

"Paul had a good session and made a big improvement between final practice and qualifying," contributed Dr Vijay Mallya, Force India's team principal and managing director. "He's put himself in a strong position to race for points tomorrow.

"Adrian was unlucky with traffic compromising his best opportunity in Q1," Mallya added. "His final chance of a quick lap ended with a brake disc failure on the front right corner, which resulted in a puncture. It's unfortunate because he was not able to show the true speed of the car.

Overall, Mallya summed up the day as a "mixed qualifying result" for the team but not without hope for the race. "The task for us now is to try use the strategy to bring him [Sutil] into contention for points."

Force India are seeking to protect a 32 point lead in the standings from Sauber, whose hopes of cutting that gap took a big hit on Sunday after Esteban Gutierrez saw his tenth position on the grid wiped out by a ten-place grid penalty for impeding a rival during qualifying.