Spanish GP: Force India preview

Force India F1May.4 (YF1) The Spanish Grand Prix will be the fifth round of the 2010 FIA Formula One World Championship and the first of nine European races this year. Held at the Circuit de Catalunya in the hills above the Catalan capital, Barcelona, it is a fairly typical medium to high downforce track that is very familiar to the racing fraternity after days pounding round in winter testing. The Force India F1 Team looks forward to this event after missing out on the points at the last event in China. With some updates in the pipeline, the team is confident that Spain will see a return to the points-scoring form seen in the first four races.

Dr Vijay Mallya, chairman and team principal

What are your thoughts on the team’s performance at the last event in China?

Ultimately we didn’t achieve all our aims, but I don’t think we should be so critical with ourselves, there were lots of good points as well. Adrian made Q3 and narrowly missed out on points in 11th position in the race and he also enjoyed some good battles with several drivers, including Schumacher, Hamilton and Vettel, which again showed our consistent pace and ability to run with the top four teams. Tonio had a more frustrating weekend but he has drawn a line under it, and is now very positive about Spain. All his bad luck came in one weekend – let’s move onto the next round, a track we know well from winter testing. I know what we have coming for the next few races and how determined everyone is to get points at each and every race.

And looking forward to the next few races, we have a European double header in Spain and Monaco and then Turkey. What do you expect for this next period in the season?
Mark [Smith] and his team have a solid programme of developments throughout the first half of the season, some of which will come in Spain. The simulations we’ve been doing back in the factory are very positive and I’m sure we will be able to maintain the form we have shown before and maybe even move further up the field. The other teams are not sleeping I am sure, and we’ll see how much everyone has moved forward in Barcelona, but based on the way the team is working together at the factory and wind tunnel and then the superb implementation we see at the track I think we’ll have an edge.

Adrian Sutil (car 14, VJM03/03)
Adrian, we’re going back to the European season now, what are your thoughts?

It’s always a nice feeling to get back to Europe. It’s been a hard start to the year with the four flyaway races, but it’s not going to be easy now with the first European double header and then the Turkish Grand Prix not that far away. But Spain is always a great place to open the European season. We know it well from the winter testing programme but it’s still a challenge with the mix of high speed and technical corners. I quite like it and am looking forward to scoring points there for the first time in my career.

The team has some updates coming for Spain, do you think this can consolidate the team’s performance in the first four races?

We have some aerodynamic improvements all over the car, with refinements to the front wing and bargeboard area, plus some mechanical changes aimed at improving lower speed corner performance. I think this will put us in quite good shape for Spain and see us maintaining our position. Of course you don’t know what the others are doing but the development race is so tight now, everybody is at a point where it’s hard to find every single tenth. We’ve looked very competitive in the first four races and I don’t see why that should change. The feeling in the team is positive, we’ve got a good plan, I feel very confident and comfortable in where we are and where we are going. Q3 and points is now the normal aim for us and we’re disappointed if we don’t get them.

Tonio Liuzzi (car 15, VJM03/04)
How would you review the Chinese Grand Prix weekend now?

It was frustrating, the worst weekend we have had since the beginning of the season. But you always hope that the bad luck comes in one go and then it doesn’t come again. We had a really difficult Friday as in the afternoon we didn’t get as much information as we would have liked and we didn’t have a clear picture. On Saturday we had a stronger FP3 but in qualifying we suffered again with traffic, which was frustrating as we believed we had a pace that was good enough to get close to Q3. Then in Sunday’s race, starting from 18th position was always going to be difficult. We had to start really aggressively to try and get some points but conditions were very difficult and since Friday we had had a problem with heating the brakes. During the formation lap I couldn’t get much heat into them, then on the damp track I made a mistake in corner six. When I touched the brakes it just locked the rear and basically we lost the car. That was the end of it, which was a real shame as we had a really good start, overtaking about three cars and everything was going to plan, but I underestimated that the brakes were not exactly at temperature. So it was the end of a really difficult weekend, but we haven’t lost faith in our potential: we know from the first rounds we have a good pace.

What are your thoughts on the Spanish Grand Prix?
Every race has its own story and in China everything went wrong, but we always thought we could be very strong for the Barcelona race. In the final winter test we had a good pace, I like the track and the car seems to fit the track characteristics well now. For me personally, I have turned the page after China and am really looking forward to the European season where I want to get back into the points at each round.

Will the upgrades the team has for Spain help in this respect?

Yes of course. Sustaining this development rate is not just important, it’s crucial. All the other teams are bringing their own updates so we need to keep pushing to maintain our position. Our aero department is doing a great job as at every race we have more and more developments, which keeps our heads high and makes us positive. Each step is a good update that helps to rebalance our car in the few weaker areas we have. I think we are in good shape now and we need to get the most out of it and continue scoring points.

Paul di Resta, test and reserve driver
Paul, you were out again in FP1 in China, replacing Tonio for the second time. Is it easier returning to the same car?

In China I replaced Tonio for the first session, as I had done in Malaysia. It’s getting easier when I get back into the car for a second time as you already know the characteristics and also how to work with that particular set of mechanics and engineers. Having that good baseline and continuity has really helped me understand what needs to happen with tyres and set up. We had difficult conditions in China, it was very cold and with the very hard compound of tyre it was difficult to get any sort of temperatures into them. It really opened my eyes about how this warm up process is critical. It’s all part of the learning curve, which is exactly what I am here to do.

And you’ll be out  again in Spain, this time replacing Adrian. What are your thoughts about this?

I’ll be replacing Adrian this time out and I’m really looking forward to it. Barcelona isn’t a track I know, in fact the only European track I know well is Hockenheim, but I have been in the simulator and will do the usual preparations on Thursday and before the session so it should not be a problem to get up to speed. Again I’ll be trying to focus on learning, getting into the environment and hopefully with the past three sessions under my belt, giving some genuinely useful feedback to the programme.

And you’ve also had one race in the DTM since China. Was it very difficult to change from the F1 car to the Mercedes DTM car you drive?
It’s starting to get very busy now for me with races just about every weekend! After China I flew straight to Germany for the first round of the DTM championship in Hockenheim. It was an OK weekend, I got fourth in the first race, which is a good start to the year. But it’s all good, positive stress and I don’t think too much ahead, I just try to focus on what I am doing at the time and get the most out of that particular car. I didn’t find it too difficult to switch when I got back in the DTM car for the first time, but let’s see how it goes when I get back into Spain! As they are so different I don’t anticipate any problems, it’s just a really good opportunity to drive two cars that are so competitive.