Nico Hulkenberg was relieved to bring his Force India home in seventh place at the end of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, cementing his spot in the overall top ten at the end of a campaign he admitted was far from his best.
Despite Force India enjoying an upswing in results following the mid-season introduction of the VJM08B, Hulkenberg fell behind team-mate Sergio Perez in the standings, with four retirements and a DNS blighting the second half of his year. Nevertheless, he converted seventh on the grid at Abu Dhabi into a finish in the same position, adding to seventh in Mexico and sixth in Brazil to end the schedule.
While he helped Force India to accrue another 16 points towards a best-ever fifth place in the constructor' series, Hulkenberg conceded that holding on to his position was a battle for much of the race.
“It was a bit of a struggle at times, and I had a hard job on my hands,” he reported, having completed a strategy that saw him swap the short-lived supersoft Pirellis for two new sets soft rubber during the 55-lap encounter.
“The start was pretty good - everyone went to the inside, so I stuck to the outside. It was a brave move and I was able to make up a few places. However, I had a lot of understeer and it was difficult to get the car to turn in, especially at a track with so many tight corners, so I suffered in the first two stints.
“The final part of the race was a bit better and I was able to get into a rhythm, which was important to keep our position. It was a tough race so it was a really good result to come home with seventh place.”
Allied to Perez's fifth place, the points haul was Force India's best of the season, and Le Mans 24 Hours winner Hulkenberg admitted that the shared results gave him more pleasure than his own showing.
“It's been a good season for the team and we will be aiming to build on it over the winter months,” he concluded, “From a personal point of view, it hasn't been one of my best years, but it gives me an opportunity to learn from what happened and come back stronger. I am already looking forward to 2016 and working hard to make sure we are competitive from the first race of the season.”