Force India admits strategy mistake cost Hulkenberg maiden podium

Force India’s Robert Fernley has said that Nico Hulkenberg would have likely celebrated a maiden Formula 1 podium in the Monaco Grand Prix if not for a mistake by the team.

Force India admits strategy mistake cost Hulkenberg maiden podium
Nico Hulkenberg, Sahara Force India F1 on the drivers parade
Felipe Massa, Williams FW38, leads Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari SF16-H, and Nico Hulkenberg, Force India VJM09
Nico Hulkenberg, Sahara Force India F1 Team VJM09
The Sahara Force India F1 Team celebrate third position for Sergio Perez, Sahara Force India F1 and sixth for Nico Hulkenberg, Sahara Force India F1
Nico Hulkenberg, Sahara Force India F1 Team VJM09
Robert Fernley, Sahara Force India F1 Team Deputy Team Principal in the FIA Press Conference
Nico Hulkenberg, Sahara Force India F1 VJM09
Nico Hulkenberg, Sahara Force India
Nico Hulkenberg, Sahara Force India F1 VJM09

Having qualified fifth for the race, the German was called in to switch from full wets to inters on Lap 15, while teammate Sergio Perez made his stop six laps later.

Having emerged from the pits, Hulkenberg was then stuck behind Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, who himself was being held up by the Williams of Felipe Massa, the Brazilian yet to stop.

This played into the hands of Perez, who cycled out ahead of both Vettel and his teammate Hulkenberg, despite having started seventh.

“I think we had two sides of the coin [in Monaco] because we didn’t really do a good job for Nico, so my apologies to him, I think we should have done better for him,” said Fernley to Motorsport.com.

“But Sergio was superb. They both drove brilliantly. Nico, at the end of the day, to pass Rosberg who was on the ultrasofts, to get the traction at Rascasse, was tremendous.

“So no complaints but I think we could have done even better."

Perez had changed to slicks on Lap 30, with Hulkenberg making the stop a lap later - but the German's podium chance was already gone by then, Hulkenberg emerging seventh behind fellow countryman Rosberg, who he would pass on the last lap.

“I feel disappointed for Nico, as much as I am elated for Checo, because we made a mistake and I think he probably would have got that podium had we got that right,” Fernley said.

Team principal Vijay Mallya shared the sentiment, tweeting an apology to Hulkenberg after the race "for a lapse in tyre strategy".

Hulkenberg left disappointed

Despite scoring his first points since the opening race in Australia, the German was not overly happy with the result.

“It was ultimately a disappointing race for me, despite getting back to scoring points,” said Hulkenberg.

“I feel the timing of our first pit stop was wrong and that cost me track position and put me straight into traffic.

“This effectively ruined my race, as I spent the rest of the afternoon stuck there. It’s very frustrating as I had the pace to be on the podium, but this is racing [although] I still feel it’s a huge missed opportunity for me."

While Hulkenberg has had a somewhat tough start to the campaign, the Indian squad insists it has full faith in its driver.

“You saw the quality of Nico in qualifying and you saw the quality of him taking the position on the last lap," Fernley said.

“We got to stay with him, we got to support him properly and he’ll be fine, he’s a star."

Additional reporting by Jonathan Noble

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