Suzuka (Japan): Force India returned empty-handed from the Japanese Formula One Grand Prix after Adrian Sutil and Paul Di Resta finished a disappointing 11th and 12th respectively on Sunday.
Starting on the 11th and 12th positions on the grid, both Sutil and Di Resta failed to better their performances, on a day when Germany`s Sebastian Vettel became Formula One`s youngest back-to-back world champion after finishing third at the Suzuka Circuit.
Sutil clocked 1:31:47.874s en route his 11th place finish, while his team-mate Di Resta finished with a timing of 1:31:55.753s.
McLaren`s Jenson Button won his third race of the season and the 12th of his career, 1.1 seconds ahead of second-placed Fernando Alonso of Ferrari.
Sutil was a tad disappointed not to have finished among points here and said the introduction of safety car on lap 22 hurt his cause.
On lap 22, McLaren`s Lewis Hamilton and Felipe Massa of Ferrari clashed at the final chicane, with a piece of front wing from Massa`s car left in the middle of the circuit, prompting a three-lap safety car period to remove the debris.
The incident was investigated, but no action was taken. The clash was the latest in a series of incidents this year between the pair, with Hamilton running into the back of Massa in the most recent race in Singapore.
"To be honest I feel we were unlucky to miss out on points today. My initial start was excellent, although I had to lift because (Kanui) Kobayashi had a very poor start and so I didn`t get the full benefit. But after the first few laps I was ahead of the Renaults and we had good pace. I think what really hurt my race was the safety car because I made my second stop the lap before it came out and lost track position," Sutil said.
"In terms of strategy we had to go for three stops because the degradation was so high. For a while it looked like ninth was possible, but in the end we lost out to the
cars making two stops who had the benefit of soft tyres at the end of the race," the German added.
Di Resta was also of the view that if not for the safety car, one of the Force India cars could have ended among the points bracket.
"I made an awesome start to the race, going to the outside and jumping up four places - ahead of both the Renaults and Kobayashi. I settled into a good rhythm but the safety car spoilt our strategy because that was our fastest part of the race and it was important to try and pull a gap," he said.
"It helped the cars making two stops because they caught us in the final laps and it was very hard to defend. Going into the final four races we know it`s going to be a close battle with the teams around us."
Force India`s deputy team principal, Robert Fernley, also agreed with his drivers and said the safety car on lap 22 spoiled his team`s point-scoring chances.
"We went into today`s race believing we could fight for points, but ultimately the circumstances of the race just denied us in the final stages.”
"Our undoing proved to be the safety car, which negated all our advantage and brought the two-stopping cars right into contention," Fvernley said.
He, however, was satisfied with his team`s strategy.
"In terms of strategy we definitely had our bases covered and the excellent starts for both cars played into our hands nicely. We knew we were on the limit with tyre wear, but we were showing good race pace and pulling a gap to the cars running on the medium tyres at the start of the race," he said.