It was a definite case of what might have been for Sergio Perez as the Force India team saw its hopes of a strong Russian Grand Prix performance severely dented on the opening lap in Sochi.
While team-mate Nico Hulkenberg, one of the minority to start the race on the more durable soft tyre, saw his race end at turn two following a collision with Esteban Gutierrez, Perez's plans were derailed by a puncture most likely picked up as a result of the incidents – and ensuing debris – going on around him.
“I didn't get the best start, but I found a good line going into turn two and I was ahead of Ricciardo and Vettel coming out of the corner,” the Mexican noted, identifying the two main victims of the contact precipitated by Daniil Kvyat's Red Bull, “Then I realised I had a puncture, which dropped me to the back of the field...”
Having to pit for repairs, Perez took on a set of new soft compound Pirellis, which he made last for 26 laps as he fought his way back up the order. Pitting again, as originally planned for another set of the yellow-ringed tyres, he then completed the race in the points, although ninth place wasn't exactly what he had had in mind prior to the start.
“It's obviously good to come away with my first points of the year but, without the puncture on lap one, the result could have been so much better,” he insisted, “After that, it was a recovery drive and I managed to get back up to ninth place just behind [Romain] Grosjean.
“I had a quicker car and fresher tyres, but he had very good traction and I just couldn't get close enough to make a move. It's a shame not to score more points because we did everything right today, but we were just really unlucky.”
Perez's belief that there are 'lots of positives' to take away from the Sochi weekend is shared by chief operating officer Otmar Szafnauer.
“We were able to display some good pace as Checo made his way through the pack, got back into the points and closed in on Grosjean,” he concluded, “Despite having superior pace, however, we couldn't progress any higher on this track which proved very difficult for overtaking, so it means we leave Sochi with mixed emotions.
“Without the incidents on lap one, we would have been at the front of the midfield pack and with the pace to stay there so, at least, we can take encouragement from the performance that will help us at the upcoming races where, hopefully, we will have a bit more luck and score more consistently.”