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Vergne rues pit lane clash with Hülkenberg
13 May 2013
"It was one problem after another today," said Jean-Eric Vergne after a premature end to his Spanish Grand Prix on Sunday at the Circuit de Catalunya.
He'd spent the first half of the race just outside of the top ten, but then a disastrous pit stop at the midpoint of the 66-lap race left him bumping along at the back of the field until his eventual retirement 20 laps later.
"I was coming into the pits, Sauber did an unsafe release with Hülkenberg who drove into me and then I had a problem with a tyre," he explained. "Yet again I was unlucky and I hope that stops soon."
Team principal Franz Tost explained why Vergne had eventually been forced to retire the car: "He had to return to the pits on lap 38 when it was clear he had a damaged tyre and then in the closing stages, we could see from the data that the damage to the rear of the car was getting worse and we called him in to retire in the pits."
It was particularly galling for Vergne, as - after initial problems with understeer were tackled by adding a lot of extra front wing downforce - the race had been looking quite promising despite the damage from the pit lane mishap.
"The strategy we adopted was the right one and even with a damaged floor and wing I was able to do good lap times," he said. "I haven't lost hope for the future, given the performance we had shown earlier in the weekend and it's just such a shame as that good pace should have allowed us to score points today."
At least Vergne's team mate Daniel Ricciardo went on to deliver on the team's stated target of winning a point in Barcelona, although ending up a lap off the lead wasn't the way that the Australian had wanted to do it.
"I had a really poor start off the line, with a lot of wheelspin and, to be honest, the first few laps of the race I really struggled with front grip and locking the front brakes," he explained.
"I tried to be patient and eventually it improved and I could see the cars ahead of me were not pulling away so much," he said. "It was disappointing to lose ground like that, but the pace itself was not too bad."
Set-up changes during his first pit stop helped improved his race over the next two stints.
"I made a few passing moves, so it was certainly not a boring race, but then towards the end of the race our pace began to fade again," he sighed. "It wasn't easy to get tenth, even if we looked on course to get more than the one point earlier in the race, so it's better than nothing."
Tost said that he was very pleased with Ricciardo's battling performance holding off Sauber's Esteban Gutiérrez for that final points position in the final run, and added that the team having to focus on Vergne's problems has compromised the Australian's race.
"[Jev's retirement] had a serious knock-on effect for our other car, as we had to keep Daniel out for one more lap before a pit stop while dealing with Jev," Tost revealed. "As his tyres were well worn at this stage it cost him a significant amount of lap time.
"Nevertheless, he managed to fight off Gutierrez in the closing stages to pick up a point for tenth place. Without that earlier problem, we should have been much closer to the McLarens with a possible chance of attacking them in the final part of the race," he said.
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