Lining up eighth on the grid behind the Toro Rosso driver, Hulkenberg enjoyed a strong launch but his race came to an abrupt end a few seconds later when his VJM09 was pitched into the wall following contact with Sainz.
The Spaniard explained afterwards that he had swerved right to avoid collecting Max Verstappen, who had had a sluggish getaway ahead of him, only to collide with the Force India.
Asked by F1i’s Chris Medland whether he read the contact as a racing incident, Szafnauer replied: “Well, yes and no. I’m probably a bit biased towards us but Nico had a great start and went past a few cars. When you do that you can’t go over the top of the car in front of you, so you have to go left or right otherwise you hit the car in front of you. It’s just natural.
“He went right, and then another car [Kvyat] pushed him back left and when he came back left to avoid that car [Sainz] just didn’t move. You’ve got to move. That’s what happens at the start. If you look, when one car moves across the other car moves with him so they don’t crash into each other. Sainz doesn’t move, Nico comes across on him and they end up making contact.”
When pointed to him that Sainz had Verstappen on the inside, the Force India COO added: “I can’t remember, there was another car on the outside too. I didn’t see Max. So when Nico moves over, Sainz needs to move over and then Verstappen needs to move over, but Sainz didn’t move.”
Szafnauer was all the more frustrated that he felt valuable points went begging for Force India in the close fight for fourth place in the Constructors’ championship with Williams.
“Coulda, woulda, shoulda. Probably fourth was in it [for Hulkenberg].”