German GP: Force India F1 Team Preview

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After achieving its sixth consecutive points scoring position, and its ninth of the season, at its home race in Silverstone last week, the Force India F1 Team is now looking forward to extending this run at the next round of the FIA Formula One World Championship, the German Grand Prix. Held at the Hockenheim circuit in the heart of Germany’s Rhine Valley, the race will of course be a homecoming for Adrian Sutil, who was born in the south of Germany, and for Force India’s engine suppliers, Mercedes-Benz.

Team Q&A

Dr Vijay Mallya, chairman and team principal

At Silverstone Adrian scored his sixth consecutive points scoring position and brought the team’s top ten finishing record to nine out of ten races. You must have been happy with that result?

I think Adrian did an outstanding job and also Tonio as well, given the circumstances. Adrian drove superbly, and to keep Vettel at bay for 10 laps when he was so much quicker, was a great achievement. Unfortunately Vettel squeezed past right at the end and we were knocked down a position, but to be racing the pace-setting car is very encouraging and a sign of how mature both Adrian and the engineering team have become. Similarly, Tonio started 20th and drove brilliantly as well, particularly after his change to the soft tyres. Even Alonso, who is a pretty aggressive driver, couldn’t get past him. I think if he had not got held up in the early stages, we could have had a double points finish. We started 11th and 20th on the grid, so to finish up eighth and 11th is a pretty credible achievement and one that sets us up for this next double header of Germany and Hungary.

Force India has sometimes had problems in qualifying. What are you doing to address that to give a better starting platform for the race?
We have struggled a little in qualifying for various reasons, but we are improving and learning all the time and I hope that we’ll see a qualifying performance in Hockenheim that is more representative of the actual pace of the car. We need to put the whole package together now from the start of the weekend to the finish. We’re going well but the other teams are also giving us a good run for our money so we need to optimise every single area of performance.

Any thoughts on the next race at Hockenheim?

If you look at what we presume to be the strengths and weaknesses of the car, Hockenheim is not as ideal as Spa or Monza. Having said that, it’s Adrian’s home race, and we are going to give it everything that we have. There are no dramatic updates, some tweaks to the rear wing and the rear suspension but I hope we’ll hold position relative to where we were in Silverstone. If we can get both cars in the top ten in qualifying that will set us up very well for the race and I hope get another double points finish.

Driver Q&A

Adrian Sutil (car 14, VJM03/03)

It’s your home race now in Germany – this must have a special feeling for you?

I feel like it’s the second home race in a row as Silverstone is the team’s base and now we’re going to Hockenheim, which has a special meaning for me, of course. It was actually the first track I ever saw; I visited it on the way to see some family and just sat there, dreaming of what it could be like when I got to F1. To come back now, having achieved that aim, is just magic. I’ve raced at Hockenheim a lot of times with many different cars: in Formula Ford, Formula BMW and now F1 and I’ve had some of my strongest races there. I had a few wins and always when I finished I was on the podium. Now it will be a great feeling to go there with a really competitive F1 car and try to get the same success I achieved in my junior career.

What about the circuit itself?

It’s a great track. I never drove on the old version, although I did do the short track in 2002. The new version is a really nice circuit. The first corner is a challenging and quick one and then you have the long straight down to the tight hairpin, which is really slow, but good for overtaking. Then you come into the best sector on the track, right into the stadium. It’s a nice right hander and you can feel the atmosphere, you can feel the people sitting there. The double right hander onto the start/finish line is a special corner, very difficult. I think if you have lots of experience on this track you can gain a little bit at this corner. I’m hoping for that home advantage!

Do you feel that being at the German GP as one of six German drivers will make it even more atmospheric this year?

Ever since I’ve been in F1 there has always been a large German contingent in F1 and now with six, and one of them being Michael Schumacher, I hope we’ll get an even bigger crowd and more atmosphere. For me personally, I just concentrate on my own game, getting the most out of the car and the team and scoring points. To get some points on my home ground – for the first time in F1 – would be a great feeling. Last year at the Nurburgring I started seventh but finished out of the points so I really want to try and finish the job now. We have a car that can do it and some small developments that should help. Yet again I’m feeling confident and comfortable and when I feel like that it normally shows out on track.

Tonio Liuzzi (car 15, VJM03/01)

Silverstone was another challenging weekend – how would you review the performance over the weekend now you’ve digested all the facts?

It was a tough weekend and I do feel it was like another missed opportunity, not only to score points but to have a good event overall. Things went badly in qualifying and then it was made several times worse by the penalty I was given for blocking Nico Hulkenberg. We then lost a lot of time in the first part of the race with massive amounts of understeer, which is something we need to get to the bottom of. Looking at how the rest of the race panned out, if I hadn’t had this delay at the start of the race we could have aimed for the points. Fortunately when we pitted for soft tyres we had a really competitive pace and were really strong in the final laps. I had a good battle with Fernando Alonso so it was very encouraging for a Force India to be genuinely keeping a Ferrari behind on pace. All the same I just missed out on the points despite the good performance. It can’t happen again in Hockenheim as our rivals are getting stronger all the time.

What will be your key areas of focus this weekend?

We’ve really got to concentrate on getting into Q3 this race. We can easily get into Q2 but then we struggle a little to get the soft tyres to warm up. Adrian’s had a similar issue in that on Saturday morning we are really confident after final practice, but in the afternoon it can go a bit wrong. If we can get the qualifying right – as we saw in Canada – then the race will come to us.

What are your expectations for Hockenheim?

I really enjoy racing at Hockenheim as I feel I grew up there. I raced in German F3 in 2002 and also won the 2004 F3000 race there. It’s a great track, very flowing with some very fast curves and the Motodrom section is really like a stadium – you can hear the crowd over your helmet sometimes so it’s an extra thrill. I’ve not raced there since 2006, when I finished 10th, so it’s been a relatively good track for me. I’m looking forward to it. We also have some smaller new developments and if we can get the whole weekend together from start to finish we should be able to pick up some more points.

Paul di Resta, test and reserve driver

Paul, you’re not driving in Hockenheim – what are the reasons behind this?

It’s a shame but I completely understand the decision. In Hockenheim Bridgestone are bringing two tyre compounds that are two steps apart – the supersoft and the hard – rather than just the one step as usual, so the drivers and the engineers need to understand the performance fully. It’s a decision that’s been taken relatively late but it’s better to err on the side of caution at such a crucial stage in the season. The team is performing well but other teams are also making steps forward so we need to have as much information as possible to get every performance advantage we can. Hockenheim is a track I know well from the DTM and I was looking forward to getting out there in the F1 car, but it’s a team effort and I am sure I can put some of the knowledge I have back into the overall weekend. I’ll be back in the car in Hungary, replacing Tonio for FP1, so I’ll resume my running there. In the meantime I’ll join in the programme as usual – help out with meetings, on the pitwall and pick up as much information as I can. At this stage everything is part of the learning process.

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