March 24th, 2013 (F1Plus / Chris Cameron-Dow) - A weekend that started well for Force India has ended in disappointment for Force India, after both cars had to be retired from the race due to persistent issues with their wheel nuts that caused major delays in the pit stops.
The issue first appeared when the drivers streamed into the pitlane to change from intermediate tyres to slick tyres. Sutil and Di Resta came in at the same time and queued for use of the pit box. But it soon became clear that there was a problem that prevented the wheels from being secured to the cars. Eventually both drivers managed to rejoin the track, but well out of position. In the next round of pit stops the same issues occurred, and later the team took a decision to retire the cars as there was no chance of points and there was no point risking the cars and drivers on wheel nuts that might misbehave.
Both Sutil and Di Resta had looked competitive throughout the weekend, and were targeting strong points finishes in the race. Paul Di Resta's pace on the dry tyres following the first problematic pit stop was very quick, showing that the car is genuinely capable of battling with the front-runners.
There is now a three-week break before the Chinese Grand Prix, which gives Force India time to examine the issues that occurred and find solutions. They will want to bounce back with a strong double points finish in Shanghai.
This is what the team had to say after the race:
Adrian Sutil: “An early end to a race that promised so much for us. Both cars had the same problem with the wheel nuts and it cost us a lot of time in the pits. We’re not sure exactly what happened yet so the team stopped the cars to make sure we understand the issue. It’s a shame that this happened here because we had a very quick car today and I felt very comfortable as the track dried out. We have to stay positive, keep our heads up and remember that there are plenty of races left where we can make up for the disappointment of today.”
Paul Di Resta: “It’s frustrating to come away with nothing given how competitive we have looked all weekend. We saw an issue at Adrian’s first pit stop when I was sat behind him, which cost me about 15 seconds, and then I had the same issue with the wheel nut at my second pit stop. As a precaution the team chose to retire the car. The good news is that we have the performance in the car, but this is definitely a missed opportunity because we had the potential to score a lot of points today. We will go away, take this on the chin, and come back fighting in China.”
Dr Vijay Mallya, Team Principal & Managing Director: “A very disappointing end to a weekend where we have shown tremendous pace with both our cars. We made it safely through the opening laps in the damp conditions and the track came to us as we switched to dry tyres with Paul being one of the fastest cars on the circuit. Unfortunately things went wrong in the pits when we experienced an issue with our captive wheel nut system at the first stop, which resulted in major delays for both cars. The issue occurred again at the second stop and it became apparent we would not be able to solve it during the race. As a precaution we were forced to retire both cars and will have a full investigation. It’s frustrating, but sometimes these things happen in racing. We will take the positives of the strong car performance and look to put things right next time out in China.”