After making a great start to the 2016 Chinese Grand Prix, Nico Hulkenberg plummeted down the order to come home in fifteenth place.
The German was then given a time penalty for being deemed to have purposefully slowed up other drivers in the pit lane when he had to stack the VJM09 behind team-mate Sergio Perez, after his Force India team decided to pit both drivers at the same time. All in all, it was a difficult race for the 2015 Le Mans winner.
“It was a frustrating race in the end, even though the start and the first few laps were great,” said Hulkenberg. “As the lights went out, I rocketed from P13 up to fifth place, picking up one place after the other.
“The safety car threw all this good work out the window because I had to stack in the pits behind Checo and dropped right down the order. The dirty air affected us, we had some faster cars coming through and this destroyed my tyres. In fact, tyre degradation was the main story of the day and we appeared to suffer more than some others, which is why I went backwards in the second half of the race.
“The time penalty was an added blow, but in the end it didn’t make a huge difference to my result: the rules say you shouldn’t slow down coming in, but in the heat of racing it’s hard to gauge if that is giving you an advantage. Ultimately, we didn’t have the pace to get back into the points: it’s something we have to work on and do better in the coming races.”
Hulkenberg did manage to set the fastest lap of the race, but it was not much consolation for the German, whose honesty during the after race interviews regarding his pit lane antics, was rather refreshing.
Team-mate Sergio Perez meanwhile fared slightly better than his opposite number, but the Mexican also felt that the race got away from them in the end, after a strong beginning.
“Today things didn’t go our way and the timing of the safety car didn’t help me,” said Perez. “The start of the race was really good and things looked very promising. I was up in third place when the safety car came out and we had no option but to pit, which dropped me back into the pack.
“I had to fight hard because the cars around me were on different tyres and there were some quick cars recovering as well. All of this took a lot of the life from my tyres.
“There were some entertaining battles during the race and we put up a good fight, but the points finish slipped away in the final part of the race. I think we chose the right strategy and made good choices, but the race didn’t go our way. It’s also clear that we need to keep doing our homework to come back stronger for the next few races.”