Adrian Sutil Q&A: Force India lose their grip 26 Jun 2010
Over recent months Adrian Sutil and Force India have become a package to be reckoned with, a points contender at every race. After shining in all three practice sessions in Valencia, this weekend looked set to be no different. But then came qualifying and suddenly the VJM03 lost its lustre
Q: Adrian, youve been a Q3 contender all season and the same was expected today. What happened?
Adrian Sutil: We dont know. Suddenly the grip was missing. It had been working so well all weekend and in those crucial minutes of Q2 it was gone. We had quite big hopes here - especially with the new F-duct system on the car - and the car was fast all weekend long. In all practice sessions it felt very good and the times where there - and then suddenly it was gone. In fact it started already in the first lap of Q1, but then it was too late to react to this new situation. And believe me we tried everything in that small time window in qualifying: soft tyres, with hard tyres - it didnt help, it didnt make a difference. And it was the same situation with both cars.
Q: Was it a matter of different track conditions between final practice and qualifying?
AS: Sure the track changes a bit, but that could not have been the reason for both of us losing time on the track. On top of that you head into qualifying a bit lighter, so the normal thing should be to clock better lap times. And obviously others did, whereas we made a bit of a step backwards. There is a reason behind that and we will sit down and analyze it.
Q: Q3 again was your aim, wasnt it?
AS: Sure. And you put in a lot of hope that it will work again. It worked well in Montreal so there was no reason to believe that it wouldnt work here as well. And Friday and Saturday did not give the slightest indication that it would not be the case. Then when it doesnt work naturally the disappointment is big. We have been on such a good run.
Q: Starting from P13, what is possible in the race?
AS: I still believe that our race pace is pretty good and that the race is a distinctively different thing than qualifying. But on the other hand I have no illusions about how difficult it is to finish in a good position when starting from P13. Last year I qualified in P12 and ended up in tenth place - that is about the elbowroom that you have on a track like this. And considering that there will very likely be only one pit stop there is almost no room to make up some positions. You can only hope for unpredictable circumstances. There lies the biggest chance as this season we have seen so many races where the outcome was a surprise rather than the stringent result of qualifying. I am motivated for the race and will seize any unexpected chance that comes my way.
Q: What were your expectations for qualifying after the good performance in all the practice sessions?
AS: Take final practice this morning: I was held up a bit on my fast lap and the time was still good enough for P4, so I thought to myself, Wow, that really works here. Both of us were on P1 and P2 route. It all looked so good, so I calculated that around P6 should be within reach - even though I am always careful in predicting positions I was convinced that around P6 would be a sure thing.
Q: Was the worsening of the car tangible already in the first lap of qualifying?
AS: Unfortunately yes. Out of the pits and heading for the first warm-up lap there was a strange feeling - the grip I was hoping to find was not there at all, even though we had not changed anything on the car from FP3 to qualifying. My guess is that it was a matter of the tyres. They sometimes have a very narrow window where they perform best. I would say it was a problem to get them to temperature, something in that range, because the only thing that really changed from the morning session was that the track was much hotter in the afternoon. My guess is that in our case the track temperature was above the limit where tyres work optimally. Probably in the future you do not need to heat them up so much before using them, but that is pure speculation. We have to analyze what happened, as the low grip was a phenomenon on the whole track and not only in certain parts. The tyres felt like they had already done ten or more laps. And that with all tyres, hard, soft, whatever! Strangely enough I was quite satisfied with my fastest lap, with how I drove it. I was simply not satisfied with the time that was the result of that lap.
Q: You were running the F-duct system here - obviously that had worked well
AS: Yes, it worked - and it worked well. And we will of course run it in the race.
Q: Starting the race from row seven tomorrow is a bit of a danger zone
AS: Yes, it is the gloves-off zone! That can be good or bad, if you are involved in any jostle. So eyes open and full throttle.