Force India drivers Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez both complain that their Australian Grand Prix strategy was ruined by the red flag that followed the huge crash between Fernando Alonso and Esteban Gutierrez.
Having locked up the fifth row on the grid, Hulkenberg and Perez experienced mixed fortunes at the start with the German gaining a couple of positions while his Mexican team-mate dropped two places.
Both pitted for medium tyres and intending to make these last until the chequered flag, but barely had they rejoined the fray that the race was neutralised.
“I think the red flag made things a lot more difficult for our planned one-stop strategy because it gave everybody around us the chance to reset and change their tyres,” Hulkenberg said. “So that was a shame and it meant I was out of position and got stuck behind the Haas for most of the race.”
The interruption effectively handed Romain Grosjean, who had climbed up all the way into the points paying positions, a free pit stop as the Frenchman could swap to mediums during the red flag period without losing any ground. Despite harrowing the Haas for the entire second half of the race, Hulkenberg had to settle for P7 under the chequered flag.
“It was not easy to get close to Romain and I had a lot of cars behind me, which meant I was always under pressure and having to defend as well as chase. So, given all the circumstances, seventh place feels quite satisfying.
“To get some points in the bag at the first race is a positive way to start the year. It was not an easy day and it’s difficult to know what would have happened without the race being stopped and restarted.”
Meanwhile, team-mate Perez never really recovered from his poor launch and spent most of his afternoon embattled in the midfield to finish a quiet 13th.
“It's a real shame to finish outside of the points,” the Mexican said.
“I spent my first stint behind Alonso, who was on a faster compound, and being stuck in the dirty air destroyed my tyres. Unfortunately there was a very similar situation after the restart because I was passed by Jenson [Button], who was on supersoft tyres, and that cost me a lot of time.
“Sadly the Safety Car and the red flag ruined our strategy, which was to stop only once. When the race restarted we had our work cut out: I had pressure from behind and the Renaults and Williams ahead were very difficult to catch - I got close but couldn't really attack.
“In the end I had an issue with overheating brakes, probably because I spent most of the race in traffic, but we still managed to finish the race.”