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Exclusive Adrian Sutil Q&A: Sauber can overcome slump

19 Jun 2014

When Adrian Sutil joined Sauber ahead of the 2014 season, he could have little notion of just how much the team would struggle over the opening seven races.

Still yet to score a point, and having dropped below Marussia in the constructors' standings, Sutil admits he was caught out by the team's slump, but insists they can still turn their fortunes around. We caught up with the German, who also talks about his F1 future, minimum driver weights, and Rosberg versus Hamilton in an exclusive and candid interview.

Q: Adrian, when you joined Sauber everything seemed so perfect - even the distance from your home to the factory. Six months on, the reality has been harsh. How are you dealing with it mentally?

Adrian Sutil: Sometimes a hard landing can be the case. You never know what the future holds for you. Yes, we had a difficult start, and still the car is not so good, but we try our best - I try my best - to improve the situation. We all know that it can turn very quickly in Formula One. You can never be lucky all the time. I took the choice to change team and have no regrets at all - that is very important.

Q: Shortly after you joined Sauber you spoke fondly about the fantastic facilities the team has. In the end though you need a fantastic car - and that is not the case. You must have expected more…

AS: Of course I did. But I have to say that it is still fascinating what the team has to offer. It is a wonderful team to work with. Yes, the results are not so good, and sure that is what is most important - results are what matters in the end. The people behind the team are really good though and I am convinced that we will get out of the slump - hopefully soon.

Q: Can you talk us through the past seven races, which for you have included four retirements?

AS: Let's jump back in time: the first race was okay - we finished - and then the hard times started with the reliability of the car in Malaysia and China…

Q: So reliability is a big issue?

AS: Yes, it is an issue, but I think we've fixed it lately. The last few races were much better from that point of view - and the last race in Montreal we finished without any problems so again it was a smooth weekend. So I think we have an upward curve of progress. It might not be visible straight away from the outside, but we have improved. I am also a driver in a new team, so that takes time as the team needs to know how I work and vice versa. We are getting there…

Q: It is true that there is little upward trend visible from the outside. After all, when a relative newcomer like Marussia outperforms a traditional team like Sauber alarm bells must be ringing…

AS: Well, yes. But don't forget: that was one race, and one where them not making a mistake resulted in two points. But it is not true that Marussia is faster than Sauber - per lap we are almost one second faster. Of course they scored points, and the championship is all about scoring points, so I do agree that our situation from the outside looks different. There are another 12 races to go however, and in the long term we should - no, we have to - make progress. Otherwise you lose very quickly, as everyone here is trying very hard. Right now you see that some of the big names from the past are losing, and others are doing better than expected. It's a cycle. Look at Lotus: they were big last season and now they are nowhere - that is how fast it can go!

Q: How do you cope with that situation? You are again at crucial point in your career…

AS: Why? Why crucial? What should happen?

Q: So the so-called 'silly season' - when teams look for drivers and drivers for cockpits - doesn't bother you? Will you stay with Sauber also in 2015?

AS: Yes, of course. I have a contract with this team. I have made a commitment for a few years and we are working together for a mere six months. And look at it this way: my career in F1 has always been critical, ever since I started racing. When I was 14 and starting out in karts I was told 'go back to school or simply do something else', but I was stubborn, saying 'no, I want to become a Formula One driver'. Everyone laughed, but it never bothered me as I was determined and I knew that I could do it. I have my target, and as long as I have that I am a happy person.

Q: We see many drivers losing weight now, while the taller ones - and you are one of the tallest - suffer. How difficult is that to cope with?

AS: You have to make compromises in your life if something is very important for you. Yes, at the moment you have to be a bit lighter - and that is the reason why you are on a diet. It's okay. I lost a few kilos but I am still in good shape and spirit. It's diet every day and go to the limit - but you have to go to the limit in this sport anyway because here everybody wants to win.

Q: But there is another conceivable option - raise the weight of the car…

AS: Yes, and that would be nice as it would mean being able to do more sport again - building up more muscles, as we did in the years before when we used to train hard. You were heavier back than because of the muscle. We all looked fit - now the tall drivers look pretty skinny. I don't think this is necessary and I hope that the weight limit for next year is changed. I think it is one of the points that will be discussed.

Q: You know both Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton from your early years in single-seaters. What do you make of their relationship fighting for the title? Who is the more hard-nosed?

AS: They are both very good drivers, and both are really out there to win the championship. It is a good battle - so let's wait and see how far it goes. We are almost in mid-season and both know what the possibilities are in their car. It is a huge chance for both. But my guess is that they also respect each other, and that is what matters. Who is more hard-nosed? Could be both! Nico is a very consistent driver - very calm and in control of situation - but that probably also goes for Lewis. I cannot predict anything by looking in our past together. What could make a difference is that Lewis was a champion once, Nico not. So maybe Lewis is a bit more relaxed - but sometimes it looks like Nico is the more relaxed. It will be interesting - at least I can predict that!

Q: You know the Austrian track - at least the old version of it - from junior series. Could it be the track to help Sauber find their old form?

AS: We do not have any updates here, which is a shame in this situation - our upgrades will come for the next race. I know the track, but I have to go back in my memory: it was somewhere around 10 years ago! I remember my first test in Formula 3 was here! I like it here and it is great we are back as the fans really enjoy motorsport, so it makes sense to have a Grand Prix in Austria. For me? I hope it will not only be a 'Sunday drive'! (laughs) I have more in my plans!