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Exclusive Adrian Sutil Q&A - Force India could fight for podiums 18 Feb 2010

Adrian Sutil (GER) Force India F1 VJM03. Formula One Testing, Day Three, Jerez, Spain, Friday 12 February 2010. (L to R): Adrian Sutil (GER) with Force India F1 team mate Vitantonio Liuzzi (ITA) and Paul Di Resta (GBR) Force India F1 Third Driver (Top Left) with the new Force India VJM03. Force India Studio Shoot, Silverstone, England, 8 February 2010. Adrian Sutil (GER) Force India F1. Formula One Testing, Day Three, Jerez, Spain, Friday 12 February 2010. The Force India VJM03. Force India VJM03 Launch Studio Shoot, Silverstone, England, 8 February 2010. Adrian Sutil (GER) Force India F1 VJM03. Formula One Testing, Day Four, Jerez, Spain, Saturday 13 February 2010.

Force India are definitely one of the dark horses for 2010. Given their impressive progress last year, and the fact that the top ten finishers will take points this season, Vijay Mallya’s men could feasibly score at every race. Driver Adrian Sutil has seen the team go through many changes and believes now could indeed be the time for them to show their true colours. The aim is fifth in the constructors’ championship and Sutil feels his first podium is on the cards…

Q: Adrian, you have been with this team under many different names and colours and have witnessed every change. Can you say when the most significant change for the better took place?
Adrian Sutil:
I would say it was some months after Vijay joined our team. I saw the changes in structure, and more importantly he had a very clear goal. He was not thinking short term, one or two years; he made it very clear that he has a future in mind for the team. When I saw that development setting in I felt very confident. Of course, after a while you need confirmation - whether it really is going in the right direction - and that confirmation came last year. It was the first ‘real’ Force India year with great success in the second half of the season. There was the proof that we are heading in the right direction. I have to say the team changed a lot and it is a really great feeling to be here.

Q: From a driver’s point of view where was the most significant change - on the management side or in the technical department?
AS:
I think everywhere. All the team improved. We are all working much closer together now. We had some problems in the management - there was too much politics going on, so people were distracted from concentrating on their job, and if such a situation is ongoing at some point you see it in the performance of the car. With the changes everything started to move in the right direction and this was visible in our performance boost. We are a different team now.

Q: Speaking of performance boosts, last year Valencia was a milestone for the team and then came two excellent races at Spa and Monza. However, the remainder of the 2009 season was rather lukewarm. Can the VJM03 give you back the relative performance we saw last September?
AS:
We have improved the weak spots of the car a lot. Our weakness was pure downforce last year. We had a very low-drag car, so it was very fast on the straights, but we didn’t have enough downforce for slow-speed corners. That’s why our performance after Spa and Monza looked a bit like a rollercoaster ride, because the tracks that followed were not perfectly suiting our car. But still the performance was there. The VJM03 is another good step in the right direction with sufficient downforce. We should be pretty well prepared for the season.

Q: Many think Force India could be the insider’s tip for good performances this year. What are your arguments to support this opinion?
AS:
I have a very good feeling. I have driven the car for two and a half days now and I would say that it is one of the dark horses that you probably could bet money on.

Q: Would you bet your money on it?
AS:
Yeah, I would! I really have the feeling that we will be racing in the front part of the field - at least in the top ten and probably sometimes for podium positions. That is my feeling right now. But that depends on the updates other teams are introducing up until Bahrain. At the moment we are pretty close to the so called frontrunners and we have to develop our updates to keep us in this shape.

Q: Will Force India bring updates to Bahrain?
AS:
Yes, we will, and another one for Melbourne. For the first four races we will have two updates. That all sounds like a good plan - let’s hope that it is enough. That is always a gamble.

Q: The team’s new COO Otmar Snafznauer is eyeing P5 in the constructors’ championship. That means you and Tonio (Liuzzi) regularly collecting points. Is that possible?
AS:
Yes, I think so. With the new points regulations - with the top ten in the points and more points allocated - it is possible to score points at every race. If you have a good baseline in the car, if you do everything right - and if you finish all the races - it should be possible.

Q: The general consensus is that there are four frontrunners - Ferrari, McLaren, Mercedes and Red Bull Racing - and that for P5 there will be a fierce battle between five teams. Who do you think will be your biggest challenger for that position?
AS:
At the moment I think the Sauber team looks quite competitive. I have no clear opinion about Renault and where they stand. Toro Rosso, for sure, look very strong and seem to have a similar car to Red Bull Racing. I don’t think that one of the new teams will be a serious contender in that range of the pecking order. P5 could come our way - I am pretty convinced about that, and that we will sometimes even be fighting the big four.

Q: The weather conditions so far have not helped the teams’ testing progress. How much of Force India’s program has fallen through because of the rain?
AS:
Well, we were not able to run everything that we would have wanted, but then this goes for everybody else. At the moment it’s hard to find a warm and sunny spot in Europe. The only thing that you can do is long runs, race simulations, to get temperature in the car and to see weaknesses that you can eliminate. We will have a temperature of around 30 degrees (Celsius) in Bahrain and it’s hard to imagine how the car will behave in such conditions, as we don’t get anywhere near them at the moment.

Q: With more rain forecast this week, does the team regret not having been at the first Valencia test, which saw four dry days? Could those four days be an advantage for those who were running there?
AS:
At the moment I think yes. But who would have predicted such conditions? For those in Valencia it was a good experience and probably even an advantage. All we can hope is that Barcelona next week will give us a break from the rain.

Q: One of the team’s most valuable assets is the Mercedes engine. Have you already felt that it could be this engine that will make the difference?
AS:
I hope it will. Mercedes has always delivered great engines for us. I think that there are quite big engine differences and believe me I am happy to run the engine that we have. My understanding is that all teams running with Mercedes engines get the same engine - there is no difference from one team to the other.

Q: You’ve been in Formula One racing long enough to be ready for bigger things. What would ‘a bigger thing’ be for you?
AS:
A podium. That’s the logical step after my fourth position last year. Consistency and some podiums would make my year.