Force India took a conscious decision to sacrifice qualifying position for race strategy today in Barcelona, choosing to save three sets of tyres for each driver rather than chase grid places in the qualifying session.
The decision leaves Paul di Resta in sixteenth place, just in front of team-mate Adrian Sutil. Both will start behind Team Lotus driver Heikki Kovalainen, who opted to use an extra set of tyres this afternoon and qualified fifteenth.
“I don't think our position on the grid is that representative of our true pace this weekend,” said di Resta. “We took the decision very early on that saving tyres for the race would free up our strategy a bit. That means I've got two sets of new options and a set of new primes to use tomorrow. On paper that looks like the sensible approach so hopefully things will work out.
“How we use the tyres is also important because there's a big difference between the two compounds in terms of pace. Also, the prime being used here is much harder than usual and so it lasts a bit longer. I'm looking forward to the race and I'm sure we can come away with a better result than our qualifying performance.”
Sutil revealed that the team reverted back to their older aero package for qualifying today, and pointed out that the Saturday session is less important now than it was last season.
“We switched back to our traditional aero package this morning because we didn't really have enough time to understand all the new parts that we brought here,” explained the German. “So we went back to a package and balance that we were already happy with.
“We also know that qualifying is not as important as it used to be and that race strategy now plays a bigger factor in your race result. That's why we only ran the prime tyres during Q2 so that we could keep some new option tyres for the race. We feel this is the best approach for tomorrow and hopefully it will pay us back.”
Deputy Team Principal Robert Fernley shed more light on the team’s qualifying strategy, and explained that the new aero package will make another appearance on the VJM04 next weekend.
“We took the decision today to sacrifice grid position to be better prepared for the race,” he said. “It means losing a few places on the grid but gives Paul and Adrian three sets of new tyres for the race. From P16 and P17 it will be tough to score points, but the races so far this season have demonstrated that there is plenty of room to make the strategy work to our advantage.
“We also reverted back to our older spec aero platform because we haven't really found the crossover we hoped to achieve with the new introductions. That's why we felt it was safer to stick with a known quantity. We will take another look at our new concept and try to develop it through for Monaco, but I expect it to be a phased introduction over the next two or three races.”