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Exclusive Sutil Q&A: 2010 a big opportunity for Force India 15 Jan 2010

Adrian Sutil (GER) Force India F1.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 17, Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Practice Day, Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, UAE, Friday, 30 October 2009 Adrian Sutil (GER) Force India F1 VJM02 on the grid.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 16, Brazilian Grand Prix, Race, Interlagos, Sao Paulo, Brazil,  Sunday, 18 October 2009 Adrian Sutil (GER) Force India F1 VJM02 in the third practice session.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 17, Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, UAE, Saturday, 31 October 2009 Adrian Sutil (GER) Force India F1 in the second practice session 
Formula One World Championship, Rd 17, Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Practice Day, Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, UAE, Friday, 30 October 2009 (L to R): Adrian Sutil (GER) Force India F1 celebrates his third position in qualifying with Dr. Vijay Mallya (IND) Force India F1 Team Owner.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 16, Brazilian Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Interlagos, Sao Paulo, Brazil, Saturday, 17 October 2009

Force India’s ever-improving performance was the revelation of the second half of 2009. And with all the changes that 2010 brings, it is very likely the team will maintain their momentum. Unlike many bigger rivals, they have not had to worry about cutting budgets or headcounts, and with four new teams arriving they are no longer the new kids on the grid. Driver Adrian Sutil is very confident about the new season - he feels ready for bigger things, and a large part of India will be crossing their fingers for him…

Q: Adrian, you have just come back from a promotional tour of India. After two years of Force India, what did you make of Formula One racing’s fan base in India?
Adrian Sutil:
Support for Formula One is picking up a lot in India. Over the last two years Force India, and Formula One in general, have been established as strong brands in India. The fans are quite enthusiastic and follow the sport very carefully. Of course at the moment you can’t compare it to support in Europe, but I think it’s on the way to becoming very popular, very soon.

Q: For the last two years Force India have been one of the grid’s smallest teams. But with four start-up outfits joining the fray this year, Force India have been repositioned as an established and successful midfield team. How does that feel?
AS:
It feels very good to be a competitive team in Formula One. The 2009 season was one of the most important seasons for us. We were able to make a name for ourselves in F1 with constantly good performances and a few huge surprises. Now it’s important to continue our good work and try to be even more competitive in 2010.

Q: This year will see teams - and their budgets - shrink. Force India will therefore have an advantage as neither your headcount nor your budget needs to be reduced. Do you think it could be a successful season for the team?
AS:
What probably was a shortfall in the past is now turning into a big advantage for us right now, as we are used to working within a small budget and with less people. We can fully concentrate on our development, as we used to do over the last few years, without having to shift energy into various downgrades. Other teams need to learn - probably painfully - how to work efficiently with less people and a reduced budget. That could take a little while and so 2010 could be a big opportunity for us.

Q: Force India’s driver line-up also remains the same, with you and Vitantonio Liuzzi on driving duties. Will that help too?
AS:
Yeah, it should be good for both of us. There is only testing in February and whilst you’re there you don’t really want to lose time on getting used to a new team or team mate. I see this as another advantage for us, especially during the first few races, where the others will still have to find their way around their new team and figure out what their team mate is like.

Q: In terms of drivers, will there be a pecking order within the team?
AS:
At Force India there is no driver order. Everybody will have the same car and the same chance to make the best out of his race.

Q: Force India are one of the lucky teams to have secured a Mercedes engine…
AS:
The Mercedes unit was the leading engine in 2009. Working with Mercedes has always been very good and I’m looking forward to working with them again. In my opinion, it’s the best engine and it should help us this season.

Q: The ban on refuelling is the biggest change this season. How advanced is the development of the VJM3? Will Force India be present at the Valencia test? With the new car?
AS:
The whole team is hard at work developing the best car possible and it looks very, very promising right now. For sure the new rules are a big challenge for everybody, so to make a clear statement about how good we have been in interpreting those new regulations we will have to wait until the first test in Jerez, where I will drive the VJM3 for the first time.

Q: There’ll be six German drivers on the grid this season. Why so many? Are there better young driver programmes in place in Germany?
AS:
It’s a lot, isn’t it! Well, Germany has a lot of racing categories, so it’s quite easy to get in touch with racing. I think the support programmes are very good, from karting to car racing.

Q: Michael Schumacher is back. Will there be room in the spotlight for other drivers?
AS:
I hope so! For sure it is special for Germany to have him back in a Mercedes car. But in the end I think it’s all about success. If you have a good car and you can compete with him, you will get the same media attention that he does. And should you beat him, it would be a bonanza.

Q: There are three weeks to go before the first test and two months until the Bahrain Grand Prix. What does your schedule look like for the weeks ahead?
AS:
Right now my preparation countdown starts with my last few weeks’ training. You know… the Christmas cookies and all that! After that I will have my final seat fitting in the car and then a shakedown test. So there is not too much time left. You could say that the season is just around the corner.