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Force India F1 team says penalty cost Perez podium shot in Austria

The Force India Formula 1 team believes Sergio Perez could have fought Williams for an Austrian Grand Prix podium, had he not been hampered by a grid penalty.

As he had in Canada, Perez utilised an alternative strategy to rise from a lowly grid slot into a frontrunning position.

Perez led the race at the Red Bull Ring before making a late first pitstop, and eventually finished sixth from 15th on the grid.

He would have started 11th had the stewards not upheld his grid penalty for causing the last-lap shunt with Felipe Massa in Canada, a decision Force India tried unsuccessfully to overturn in Austria.

Force India deputy team principal Bob Fernley reckoned that penalty cost his driver a genuine shot at a podium finish.

"I think we got hurt by the penalty," Fernley told AUTOSPORT. "If we hadn't got the penalty I think we'd have been every bit as strong as in Montreal.

"I think we would have been challenging very close for the podium with Williams; we had the same pace, we did the fastest lap.

"It's there, but I think the qualifying start was the one that hurt us."

CHASSIS ISSUE HURTING HULKENBERG

Nico Hulkenberg finished three places behind his team-mate in Austria, despite starting inside the top 10.

During the race the German questioned over the radio why Perez's tyres seemed to remain in better shape than his own.

Fernley conceded Hulkenberg's driving style is hurting the rear tyres more than Perez's, but said a set-up issue with the VJM07 was also holding Hulkenberg back.

"There's a just a chassis set-up issue that we haven't got quite right for Nico, which seems to be suiting 'Checo' better," Fernley added.

"I think we need to balance it a little and give Nico a more balanced car.

"He can still deliver the qualifying but we need to get it a little better for him for the race."

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