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Force India: updates and qualifying now vital in quest for points 13 Aug 2009

James Key (GBR), Force India F1 Technical Director.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 9, German Grand Prix, Practice Day, Nurburgring, Germany, Friday, 10 July 2009 Rubens Barrichello (BRA) Brawn Grand Prix BGP 001 passes Adrian Sutil (GER) Force India F1 VJM02.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 10, Hungarian Grand Prix, Race, Budapest, Hungary, Sunday, 26 July 2009 Adrian Sutil (GER) Force India F1.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 10, Hungarian Grand Prix, Practice Day, Budapest, Hungary, Friday, 24 July 2009 Giancarlo Fisichella (ITA) Force India F1 VJM02 on the grid.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 10, Hungarian Grand Prix, Race, Budapest, Hungary, Sunday, 26 July 2009 Giancarlo Fisichella (ITA) Force India F1 VJM02.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 10, Hungarian Grand Prix, Practice Day, Budapest, Hungary, Friday, 24 July 2009

As well as the ascendancy of Brawn GP and Red Bull, one of the most noteworthy consequences of this season’s extensive rule changes has been how close the pace of all ten teams has been. Rather than the traditionally wide gulf between frontrunners and backmarkers, the field has been closer than ever, with frequently little more than a second dividing the runner in P1 from the one in P20.

For perennial underdogs Force India it has meant drivers Adrian Sutil and Giancarlo Fisichella have been able to mix it in the midfield. The team, however, are still to break their points duck and technical director James Key believes they must continue to update the VJM02, and improve their qualifying performances, if they are to secure top-eight places in the races.

“We have tenths and hundredths between cars at present with just over one second covering the entire grid,” Key said. “This is of course incredibly close, so any reasonable updates can make a significant difference to position. As a result there is a lot of emphasis on optimising qualifying. With the current situation, track position is vital.

“I am not sure, particularly after the Hungarian Grand Prix, that any teams could be said to be struggling at present as the grid is so tight, it's more down to getting it right on the day and keeping the updates coming through. There are no weak teams in F1 nowadays with just a handful of tenths of a second making big differences.”

With the field so close, Key is well aware that one slip up during a race weekend can prove disastrous to the outcome of the Grand Prix, and ultimately hamper the team’s well-documented quest to score their first world championship points.

“I think luck has not always been on our side,” he explained. “We have had our cars in points scoring positions this year on a number of occasions but not brought the result home. We had a good window of opportunity in the middle of the season after a big step forward at Silverstone, but it did not work out for us due to Adrian's unfortunate accident in qualifying (at the British race).

“However Giancarlo's excellent race drive at that event from 16th on the grid to 10th, just seconds off the points, shows the pace to score points was there. Similarly in Germany where qualifying went well, we maintained position for points only for (Sutil’s) coming together with Raikkonen after the first round of stops.”

Although the VJM02 looked much less lively at the most recent race in Hungary, with neither driver qualifying higher than 16th or finishing better than 14th, Key is confident the car has a lot more potential and is hopeful the team can tap into this speed over forthcoming races.

“Hungary was less competitive for us, however we have a fair bit more to come for the next part of the season and we need to ensure that we capitalise on every opportunity available to us in future,” he concluded.

Following Formula One racing’s summer break, Force India will be back in action, alongside their rivals, next Friday as the European Grand Prix gets underway in the Spanish city of Valencia.