Monza: Sahara Force India witnessed a relatively good outing with Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg finishing seventh and ninth respectively in the qualifying session of the Italian Grand Prix here on Saturday.
Both Perez and Hulkenberg made it to the third qualifying session.
While Perez recorded his best timing of 1:24.626s in the final qualifying session, Hulkenberg was a tad slow clocking 1:25.317s in Q3.
Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton will start tomorrow's Italian GP from pole position after beating Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen by just over two-tenths of a second. It was Hamilton's seventh consecutive pole, his fourth at Monza and his 11th of the season.
Raikkonen edged Ferrari teammate Sebastian Vettel by just five-hundredths of a second, with the second Mercedes of Nico Rosberg - handicapped by having to revert to an old-spec engine after a problem in FP3 - fourth.
The Williams of Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas will form the third row, followed by Perez and Romain Grosjean of Lotus.
Force India's Hulkenberg was hit by technical woes and finished ninth, with Sauber's Marcus Ericsson - penalised three grid places for blocking Hulkenberg in Q1 - completing the top ten.
Perez was realtively satisfied with his outing today.
"I am pretty happy with the job I did today in qualifying. I was able to improve my time in every session and each lap was pretty good. In Q3 I was a bit too optimistic and tried to get a tow from Kimi on the straight but it didn't work. It actually cost me a couple of tenths but in any case it wouldn't have been enough to be in front of the two Williams cars," Perez said.
"The race will be hard, but our target should be to challenge Williams ahead of us. The b-spec car has been performing solidly in the past few races so I see no reason why we shouldn't be in a position to have a good performance tomorrow. A good start will be crucial as the strategy options are quite straightforward; one of the keys of the race will be tyre degradation, but I am confident we will be strong and score good points."
Perez's teammate Hulkenberg said if not for a problem in
the final qualifying session, he could have finished much higher.
"It's good to be in the top ten, but without the problems in Q3 there was the potential to be much higher up the grid. I just lost power on my in-lap following my first run on used tyres, which was caused by a problem with the fuel system. I made it back to the pits, but the mechanics had to push me back to the garage and we lost a lot of time," he said.
"When we tried to restart the car, the gearbox was stuck in between two gears and I couldn't select neutral in time to get out again for a lap on new softs. It's a shame because I think sixth or seventh place was possible today. I'm sure we will fix these issues for tomorrow, but grid position is important here so it's going to be a bit more difficult starting from ninth. The midfield is looking very competitive and some of the teams have stepped up their game since yesterday. We will have to fight hard to get the points we need."
Sahara Force India Deputy Team Principal Robert Fernley added: "We've shown a lot of promise since the start of practice and in that sense it's satisfying to see both cars through to Q3.
"Sergio (Perez) is up in seventh and did a good job despite not being totally happy with the balance of the car. Nico (Hulkenberg) was just as competitive as Sergio and without the fuel system problem I'm sure he would have been several places higher up the grid."