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Exclusive Q&A with Force India's Mike Gascoyne 10 Mar 2008

Mike Gascoyne (GBR) Force India Chief Technical Officer Formula One Testing, Barcelona, Spain, 14 November 2007. World © Bumstead/Sutton Giancarlo Fisichella (ITA) Force India F1 VJM01 Formula One Testing, Day Two, Barcelona, Spain, 26 February 2008. World © Patching/Sutton Vitantonio Liuzzi (ITA) Force India F1 VJM01 and Adrian Sutil (GER) Force India F1 VJM01 Formula One Testing, Day One, Barcelona, Spain, 25 February 2008. World © Moy/Sutton Andy Stevenson (GBR) Force India F1 Team Manager, Mike Gascoyne (GBR) Force India F1 Chief Technical Officer, Colin Kolles (GER) Force India F1 Team Principal and Vijay Mallya (IND) Force India F1 Team Owner. Formula One Testing, Day Two, Barcelona, Spain, 26 February 2008. World © Moy/Sutton Adrian Sutil (GER) Force India F1 VJM01 Formula One Testing, Day One, Barcelona, Spain, 25 February 2008. World © Patching/Sutton

Force India, the team formerly known as Spyker, are about to embark on a new season, with a new name and another set of owners. For chief technical officer Mike Gascoyne it’s an exciting time. With a boosted budget and an experienced driver line-up, Gascoyne believes everything is now in place for the squad to make real inroads into the midfield. Here he explains why…

Q: What’s the feeling in the team as the Australian Grand Prix approaches?
Mike Gascoyne:
The feeling in the team is one of excitement and the atmosphere is very optimistic. Times have been very hard for this team over the last five years, with various owners and false dawns, but I think now with a realistic budget and an exciting driver line-up we can really start to do a good job. As a result everyone is excited about the future. We are under no illusions that we are starting from the back, but I think we can look at this year as the team really starting to build itself up as a competitive unit, so there is a very positive feeling.

Q: Having found your bearings with the VJM01 during testing last week, how much of a step forward do you believe the car represents?
MG:
I think it is always difficult to judge from pre-season testing, but you can see that we have taken a step forward. We are starting from the back, so how far that step has taken us we will have to wait and see. I think one thing is very clear from testing though: we are no longer the team lapping around at the back.

Formula One is going to be very competitive this year, with a very large midfield group, so I think our hope for Melbourne is that we can be on the back of that group. Anything else would be too much, but we have always said that our aim over the winter is to step out of Q1 into Q2, which we never managed to do last year. This is clearly our first step to take and we want to be able to do it this year. That has to be our aim for the first three races, ideally we would like to get two cars into Q2, but one would be a good step.

Q: The car will receive another update ahead of Melbourne. What parts will be introduced and what gains do you hope they’ll bring about?
MG:
We had new parts for the Barcelona test and they clearly moved us forward, but we have more new parts spread out over Melbourne and Malaysia, which are really just part of the process of the constant aerodynamic cycle we are introducing over the year. Although we will be taking a step forward for both Melbourne and Malaysia it will probably be the European season before you see the full worth of the changes we have done, but there will be steps forward at every race from here on in.

Q: Are you confident that the VJM01 is reliable enough to withstand the new four race gearbox rule?
MG:
The gearbox we introduced last year was always aimed as being a four race gearbox and we have been racing with it for the last part of the season. We have done a lot of mileage over the winter too so we are very happy with the reliability. Obviously the next step will be the quick shift version of it, but obviously we have to guarantee that this is reliable before we race it.

Q: Both Giancarlo Fisichella and Adrian Sutil displayed some pretty strong form at the last test in Barcelona. Do you expect either to be in with a chance of making it through to Q2 in Melbourne?
MG:
This is obviously the aim for Melbourne and beyond. The driver line up we have is the perfect driver line-up for Force India. We obviously worked with Adrian last year and we know his talent and, with a season of racing under his belt, he will look to develop this season. It is a good opportunity for him to have Giancarlo Fisichella beside him. Giancarlo is very experienced and very smooth and I believe he will excel under the conditions with no traction control and also flourish in the environment here. With Tonio Liuzzi as a test and reserve driver, I think we have the perfect driver line-up with experienced and young, hungry drivers to push the team onwards. Q2 is a realistic aim.

Q: And what about in the race itself, what are your targets for Australia and the other early flyaway races?
MG:
We have set our aims to get into Q2 and to get race finishes. In racing terms we have to look to race competitively in the midfield and pick up anything that’s available. To do this we need to be 100 percent reliable so if there is any chance of getting points in any of those races we are there to pick them up. Reliability has been good, with the experience of Giancarlo and now with Adrian being more experienced too, we need to look to bring the car home, cut out any mistakes and pick up any results that are available.

Q: Do you think the demands of joining a smaller team have rejuvenated Fisichella? How has the team benefited from his signing?
MG:
He looks relaxed, but very determined to do well. You can tell he is enjoying having the support of a team who need his experience and who he can help develop. I think it’s been a good move for both him and the team.

Q: Finally, which driver do think will be spraying the winner’s champagne at Albert Park?
MG:
It clearly a race between McLaren and Ferrari and is very difficult to call, but I think it will be an exciting season.