07/10/2012

Japanese GP - Saturday Analysis

Qualifying Results: Hulkenberg 10th (will start 15th)(No time set), di Resta 12th (will start 11th)(1:32.327), Karthikeyan 24th (1:36.734).

Not the best qualifying for Sahara Force India really.

Nico Hulkenberg did make the final part of qualifying, but he elected not to set a laptime in order to save tyres for tomorrow's race. Hopefully this will mean he has a better strategy and is able to make up positions. Sadly for him, he receives a 5-place grid penalty due to an unscheduled gearbox change. The German driver will start P15.

Paul di Resta was unable to make the final qualifying session due to traffic and a less-than-optimal final lap. He does benefit from Nico's penalty though and will start tomorrows race from P11.

P11 & P15 is not what the team expected after having such a quick car through the practice sessions. Nevertheless, the chatter coming from the SFI garage is that they have geared setup more towards race pace, so perhaps they will have a good result tomorrow.

Robert Fernley (Sahara Force India deputy team principle):
"We've been reasonably competitive in all the sessions leading up to qualifying so we felt we had a car that was capable of reaching the top ten. But the pressure was on to fix Nico's car in the run up to qualifying and as a precaution we had to change the gearbox. As always the boys did a fantastic job to get the car running in time and Nico was immediately on the pace. A place in Q3 was a good effort, although the gearbox penalty means he will drop down the grid. Paul has been playing catch up after losing track time yesterday and was close to making Q3 as well. So we've done all we can to be in with a chance of points tomorrow and left ourselves plenty of flexibility with the strategy of both cars".

Nico Hulkenberg (Sahara Force India driver):
"The build-up to qualifying was quite intense because the guys were working hard to repair my car after the accident this morning. It was not a big impact, but the angle was unfortunate and there was quite a lot to fix – so all credit to the boys who got me out with enough time to set a time in Q1. The car felt good straight away and we made it through to Q3, which was always the target. We then took a strategic decision to save tyres so I didn't set a time. That opens up the strategy for tomorrow, especially because we knew I would get a five-place grid penalty for changing the gearbox. There's still a chance to get points tomorrow if we can make our strategy work".

Paul di Resta (Sahara Force India driver):
"It was quite a tough session with traffic today and even on my quick lap in Q2 I was slightly compromised in the second sector. I locked a wheel and it may only have cost half a tenth, but that's how close the margin was to the top ten. I think given what happened yesterday with losing so much track time we can be pretty happy with our performance today. We have got ourselves up there, close to the top ten and in with a chance of points. For tomorrow it's clear that tyre wear will be a big issue for everyone, but hopefully we can use the strategy to challenge the people in front. There are some question marks going into the race because I've done no high fuel running, but we have data with the other car".

Here's a quick points analysis:

Constructors championship (5th-8th)
5) Mercedes (136 pts)
6) Sauber (101)
7) Force India (75)
8) Williams (54)

For P5: an average of 10.17 points more than Mercedes needed each race.

For P6: an average of 4.33 points more than Sauber needed each race.

Elsewhere Narain Karthikeyan also had a very disappointing qualifying - P24 for him. In fact, he was a massive 1.3 seconds slower than Petrov (who finished 23rd). The reason for this was that he had to revert to an old floor after damaging his new one in FP3. This old floor will make it very hard for Narain tomorrow, chances are, he'll finish considerably far behind.

Narain Karthikeyan (HRT driver):
"In the morning the car was working very well and my first laps were fantastic but then I spun off and damaged my new floor so we had to go back to the old one. In qualifying I barely had any grip and on my last lap I went long at 130R. It wasn't a good qualifying session for me, but the car is performing much better and, although tomorrow will be a tough race, we will try and finish it in the best way possible".

So, to sum up, disappointment for Sahara Force India & Narain Karthikeyan. But as we all know, points are scored on Sunday, not Saturday. Things could all change yet!

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