Exclusive Q&A with Force Indias Adrian Sutil 03 Mar 2009
While Force India team mate Giancarlo Fisichella has enjoyed a long - and sporadically successful - career in Formula One Racing, Adrian Sutil has spent his first two years in the sport fighting from the back of the grid. All that could be about to change, however, with Sutil confident that this season he could finally find his F1 legs at the wheel of the new VJM02
Q: Adrian, its your third year as a driver with the team. Every year you have started the season with high hopes that have then been dashed. Why should it be different this season?
Adrian Sutil: Well, the biggest difference this year is the cooperation with McLaren-Mercedes. We are not only speaking about the engine, but also the hydraulics and the gearbox - and that makes a big difference, as we can now concentrate fully on the aerodynamic side of the car. And we have more people working for the team and this should be a big step in the right direction. But I dont want to say too much - lets wait and see how the car performs. My gut feeling is good, that is for sure.
Q: You are well past being a rookie and no doubt want to take your career to the next level. What would satisfy you this season?
AS: Last year was a very unlucky season for me, so for a change I would have a lucky season ahead of me. That doesnt mean being permanently in the points or being on the podium, just a season without problems, to advance to the midfield and have a chance to race as close to the points as possible. That would help the team and it would surely help my career. I want to show what I can do on the track. That shouldnt be too much to ask. It is terribly hard to always end up on the back row when you know that you can do much better. You want to prove yourself, but it is hard if the car doesnt allow that. So I hope that this year I will be able to take the step that we were trying to do all of last year. Then everything should fall into place. If youve got a good car then your spirit is raised and you are really able to show what youre made of - and that is what I want. Last year we started stronger than we finished. This season I want to make steady progress and not take a step back as the season progresses.
Q: The new regulations have meant that for all teams the 09 car has been almost like starting from scratch, at least in terms of design. Will that help a team like Force India to move towards the midfield?
AS: It can help. Absolutely! My guess is that the field will be much closer this year because nobody can bank on a development that has proved successful in the past. At the moment, nobody knows what the right direction is so we see very different cars with very different interpretations of the new regulations. And that can be good in helping smaller teams to catch up and for Formula One as a sport.
Q: There was a big team reshuffle at Force India at the end of last year with the departure of the team manager, Colin Kolles, and chief technical officer, Mike Gascoyne. What is the climate like now? Do you feel that progress has been made over the winter?
AS: It does. There were quite a few problems at the end of last season and the team decided to sort out those problems, and made the decision to make a new start without Colin Kolles and Mike Gascoyne. The atmosphere is very good so obviously the decision was right - it helped us. Nevertheless, I have to give credit to Colin for the fact that he kept this team alive. We have to be fair and say that he did a good job. But Formula One changes so I think it was the right decision.
Q: How often have you visited the factory to get a first-hand impression of the new car? You obviously havent been able to test
AS: Ive been to the factory quite a lot during the winter. I was more involved with the building of the car than ever. Its the first chassis that they have built for my physiognomy as I am a tall driver. I have a lot space now in the car! It was also important to be at the factory, as we didnt do any tests, to be sure that we are 100 percent prepared.
Q: How has working with McLaren-Mercedes been? Have you been involved in the new cooperation?
AS: We are at the beginning right now. At the moment its all about developing good contacts. They are very ambitious to help us as much as possible. They are the world champions team and we can learn a lot from them. They are the best partner we can have right now.
Q: Four weeks are left before you take to the grid in Melbourne. Is it enough time to get the VJM02 ready and eliminate any teething problems?
AS: Time is short, that is for sure. For us right now it is important to have the car running to see where we have to improve, as the wind tunnel is only theoretical and we have to see that it works on the track. The next few test days will tell us where we have to improve and there will definitely be an update for Melbourne. For a team unveiling so late, the season test ban is surely a disadvantage, as it is almost impossible to catch up on the tests weve missed. But we couldnt do it differently, and I would say that right now we are in a better position than in all the previous years. So I would say that it is better to be a bit late and have a good car than the other way around.
Q: Over the winter we have seen many drivers go on a KERS diet, losing weight to cope with the systems extra mass. You are one of the tallest and heaviest drivers on the grid. How have you coped with this?
AS: I am one of the taller guys and since I started racing I have had problems with my weight. Over the past 12 years Ive been on a diet, but last winter I was on an extra diet. Its hard to lose weight as driving in Formula One demands you be physically very fit, and we dont want to follow the path of the ski jumpers who are as thin as a rake. I hope that over the season we can talk about raising the overall weight of the car a bit, to eliminate the disadvantage that the taller, heavier drivers face right now. The only thing I can do at the moment is push the guys at the factory to make the car lighter.
Q: Team mate Giancarlo Fisichella drove the car on Sunday and Monday - did it meet your expectations?
AS: Ask me that question on Tuesday evening after Ive done a full day in the car, then I can tell you straight from the horses mouth!