Force India came tantalizingly close to scoring its maiden point with Adrian Sutil and Giancarlo Fisichella benefiting a rung each from Jarno Trulli’s safety car infringement to finish ninth and 11th respectively in the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne on Sunday.
Sutil initially finished 10th and Fisichella 12th in the roller-coaster season opener but Toyota’s Jarno Trulli,who had finished third,subsequently lost his podium place after the stewards slapped a 25-second penalty on him for passing under the safety car in the closing laps.
It turned out to be Force India’s best result since its 2008 debut and things in fact could have been even better for the Silverstone-based outfit.
Running fourth when the first safety car was deployed,Fisichella looked set to score Force India’s first F1 points in the season opener before a pit-stop blunder cooked his goose.
The Italian missed the stop mark and Force India crew had to manually push him back to the pit box and the precious time lost saw him rejoin the race in 14th position.
“I’m very disappointed with the mistake I made in the pit stop. I was confused with last year as we were always in last slot in pit lane,so I just overshot and had to be pulled back into the pits. I’m really sad about this as I think we could have got a good result,” a dejected Fisichella later said.
Sutil,meanwhile,found himself tangled in the first lap,losing part of his front wing and limping into the pit.
Having dropped to the rear of the field,the German nevertheless drove a measured,consistent race to claim his best result in over a year.
“I had a good start but in the first corner I think (Mark) Webber slowed down and there was nowhere I could go. I damaged my front wing and had to get the car back to the pits.
“After the first safety car everything was fine – we had a good strategy with a short stint on the soft tyres in the middle. On the restart I could get past a few cars and then on the hard tyre it went really well. I could finish in 10th position – I think we can be happy with this,” said Sutil.
Chairman and team principal Vijay Mallya had little to complain after the double finish and he said it was a good show considering the car was designed and built in 120 days and with only eight days of testing.
He said it was incredible that Sutil finished 10th despite one additional unplanned stop to change a front wing and Fisichella 12th in spite of the pit stop gaffe.
“Without these incidents,Force India could have scored championship points today by finishing in the first eight,” Mallya said.
“However,the most important achievement was that FIF1 achieved 100 per cent reliability as both cars finished without any mechanical problems. The is also relevant considering that there are pending hearings on protests filed against other teams who are allegedly in violation of the FIA Technical rules and,therefore,enjoy an unfair advantage,” Mallya said.
“All in all,a very respectable effort for the first race of the season,” Mallya added.