Exclusive Adrian Sutil Q&A: Force India under no illusions 28 Feb 2011
Force India are well respected players on the F1 grid. One of the main reasons for this is driver Adrian Sutil, who embarks on his fourth season with the team this year. Although Sutils 2010 campaign started well, a mid-season blip ultimately dropped him just outside the top ten in the drivers standings. The young German is determined to make more of an impression in 2011, but admits much depends on how Force Indias new VJM04 stacks up against its rivals
Q: After completing three tests, what can you say about the VJM04?
Adrian Sutil: That the car feels good, that weve been able to run a lot of mileage and have been able to successfully complete our programme. KERS and the moveable rear wing works very well so I look ahead towards the first races quite optimistically. What optimistically means in terms of the 2011 pecking order I cannot say right here right now. That question will be answered in Melbourne or at the latest in Sepang, as Melbourne is a bit of a special track that in the past has always produced unpredictable results.
Q: A year ago you started the 2010 season with high hopes and the first few races supported these hopes, but during the course of the season the team fell behind. What caused this?
AS: We are a small team and because of that it is difficult for us to keep up with the development speed of the big four - Red Bull Racing, Ferrari, McLaren and Mercedes.
Q: Force India was almost the last team to reveal its driver line-up for 2011. Why? Did you always believe you would be staying with the team?
AS: We reached an agreement in Korea. It was a handshake agreement between (Force India boss) Vijay (Mallya) and my manager Manfred Zimmermann. There were lots of stories and rumours in the media about who would eventually inherit my cockpit when in fact it was clear for a long time that I would drive for Force India in 2011.
Q: This year a rookie - Paul di Resta - will race alongside you. Does that mean most of the development work will rest on your shoulders? Could that hamper your season?
AS: I would not agree that the development work will rest on my shoulders. Paul is a very experienced driver with four years of DTM under his belt. He is the reigning DTM champion and has had one year as the test driver with Force India, so you can be sure that he will do his share of development work. On the other hand I definitely feel experienced enough after four years with the team to play a lead role.
Q: The new Pirelli tyres are prompting a lot of discussion. Are the tyres developed enough for the long season ahead?
AS: We will have to wait and see how the tyres behave in races and how they will develop over the season. At the end of the day, the situation is the same for all of us so that means theres equal opportunity for each and every driver on the grid.
Q: What will the races be like if you have to pit after 15 laps?
AS: The one thing that is obviously clear is that the tyres will play a major part in the outcome of this years championship. Who understands and uses them in the best possible way will land a place at the front of the standings. The difference between the different tyres is still enormous, and it will have to be seen if two pit stops will do. The fact is that we have no data whatsoever on their behaviour in hot conditions because of the cancellation of the Bahrain test, so it will be very interesting to so what Pirelli has up their sleeves for us when it is really hot.
Q: After fewer and fewer pit stops in 2010, strategy will once again play a major role this season. The chance of gaining places in the pits will increase. Have you been practising pit stops at the tests?
AS: So far we have not. But I am sure we will have it in our programme at the last test next week in Barcelona.
Q: Could the moveable rear wings also prove controversial?
AS: I dont see that. I believe that these wings will serve the purpose and that there is no more risk involved with it.
Q: Force India is using the Mercedes KERS system, which is said to be the best around. Can that help overcome any shortcomings in other areas of the car?
AS: With Mercedes we have a first-class partner and my belief is that their engine and KERS are the best on the grid for the time being. In this respect we are well positioned. But the car itself - the aero package - is what really counts. If you dont have enough downforce even the best and strongest engine will not help get you on the sunny side of results.
Q: The season starts two weeks later than originally planned. Will this help to make the car better as there is a bit more time to focus on any shortcomings?
AS: If it were only us being given two extra weeks then it could probably make a difference. But these two weeks are the same for all, so everybody will continue to develop. But yes, as we have been a bit behind, we are now sure to get our car in good shape for Melbourne.
Q: Even though you are still young, youve been in Formula One quite a while now. What do you personally expect this season? A better result than in 2010?
AS: To be honest I was quite satisfied with 2010. I quite often finished in the top ten and was fighting with the Mercedes for P9 in the drivers championship. Having said that, it would be a bit delicious to expect better results. If I manage again to fight among the top ten I would call it a good season. Under normal circumstances the first eight places are usually occupied by the four top teams, Red Bull Racing, Ferrari, McLaren and Mercedes. Then you have Renault, Williams, Sauber and Toro Rosso that have to be beaten first, so the season ahead can hardly be called a self-seller for us. But believe me I will do anything to make it one.
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