Sahara Force India got off to their best ever start to a Formula1 season Sunday when comeback man Adrian Sutil and Paul di Resta finished seventh and eighth, respectively, in an exciting Australian Grand Prix here at Albert Park.
Kimi Raikkonen jumped six places on the grid to win the 58-lap race in his Lotus, ahead of Ferrari's Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel, who started in pole position for Red Bull Racing.
Most of the drivers were on a three-stop strategy while Raikkonen and Force India drivers reaped the benefits of pitting twice.
Sutil moved up five places on the grid to bag six points while di Resta, who was ninth fastest in the qualifying earlier Sunday, gained a position in the race to collect four points.
"What a fantastic race and a great feeling. I started on the medium tyres, a different strategy to most of the cars ahead of me, and I think this was the right decision. The pace was quick and the car felt very good on the medium tyres so I was able to keep up with the guys in front of me, who I knew were going to pit early. It was not long until I was leading the race - my first time leading in Formula One. After my second pit stop I was back in the lead once again, so I knew that it was possible to come away with a great result," said Sutil.
The German impressed in his first race in more than 12 months and was leading the pack until lap 21, largely because of his late first pit stop. He was running fifth towards the end of the race before being overtaken by Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton and Mark Webber in the second Red Bull.
"My final stint on the super-softs was much more difficult because the tyres started graining and I lost a few places. I was thinking I might need to pit again, but fortunately the tyres came back to me for the final few laps so I could save the seventh place. This result for the team is a perfect way to start the season and I want to say a big 'thank you' to the team once again," said an 'obliged' Sutil.
Even Paul Di Resta was impressed by the way the Force India team performed. "Seventh and eighth for the team is a great result and a great way to kick off the season. We've shown we have a car that is kind on its tyres and that helped us today by making less stops than some of our rivals. I feel I had a car that could have finished seventh, but I was stuck behind some of the three-stoppers at the start of my second stint, and that cost me quite a lot of track position. There are a lot of positives to take from the race, as well as some things that we can improve to make the car stronger, but we're in a good position heading to Malaysia," exclaimed Di Resta.
With the good result here, Force India now head to Malaysia as a more confident unit. The Silverstone-based team managed only a point in the 2012 Australia round where di Resta came tenth. In 2011, Sutil and Di Resta came ninth and 10th.
(With IANS inputs)