Lewis will have his mirrors full on Sunday even with his KERS advantage, Forumula1.com reckons.
Adrian Sutil narrowly lost out to Lewis Hamilton in Saturday’s battle for pole position in Monza as Force India, fresh from their second place in Belgium, once again demonstrated the raw pace of the VJM09 in a low downforce environment.
Interestingly, the post-qualifying fuel weights confirmed that Sutil was running a slightly heavier fuel load than Hamilton, and Forumula1.com calculates that the German will be able to go one lap longer into Sunday’s race.
Add to that the time Sutil lost in the first Lesmo corner on his final flying lap and the fact that he is minus a KERS device – which Hamilton claims is worth around four tenths of a second in qualifying since it can be deployed twice on the start/finish straight – and you have to say that the German is sitting pretty ahead of Sunday’s race, wet or dry.
Whether it was the performance of Giancarlo Fisichella in Spa-Francorchamps or the prospect of being shown up by third driver Vitantonio Liuzzi, the man from Starnberg was absolutely on it – he could and perhaps should have been on pole.
It’s a testiment to the astonishing turnaround in performance that Force India have produced in the second half of the season, thanks in part it has to be said to their technical partnership with McLaren which sees them enjoy them enjoy Mercedes-Benz propulsion down the long straights.
Sutil was actually quicker than Hamilton on the start/finish straight in qualifying despite having no KERS power, suggesting that the Milton Keynes outfit have found a way to lower their downforce levels without sacrificing their grip in the corners.
Indeed, the VJM09 really is the quickest package at these high-speed circuits with a both the high top speed on the straights and the necessary downforce to match in the corners. Sutil says that there is no reason to think the team won’t be quick in the remaining races.
“The car is amazing,” says Sutil. “It is quick, unbelievable, so it is just so good for the team after a big success in Spa we continue it here. Just being competitive.”
“It is just such a different feeling in the car now as you know you have a chance. The good feeling of being a race driver is back and it is just such a great feeling.
“Our car has really good straight-line speed but also enough downforce for the mid-sector, for the corners. I think the package is really efficient for this circuit and although I think we shouldn t lose too much for the next races, the car is performing and there s no reason why we shouldn t be there for the next races.
“Straight-line speed is always important, there are a few long straights in the next races, so I do think our team made the step forward and we re going to be strong to the end of the season. There s always a question if you re fighting for pole position, fighting for a victory, this is still a big goal. I think this is a very special circuit for us.”
Sutil’s main challenge in Sunday’s race will be keeping the KERS-assisted Kimi Raikkonen at bay, who you have to say is favourite for the victory given that he is carrying an extra 3 or 4 laps of fuel over Hamilton and Sutil.
“I know they [the KERS drivers] have a big advantage, especially at the start. We saw it last weekend with what happened to my team-mate. He lost the race just because of the KERS button. It is tricky but that is the situation.”
“Maybe we are a little bit better in the corners because we have no KERS and they have more power. In the end it is equal but it is really hard to get the positions back, so it is going to be a hard fight for my position at the start, that s for sure.
“Let’s see how the race goes on. It s hard to say what s going to happen. I m in a good position, on the front row. There are a lot of KERS cars around me. I think this is the most difficult thing to judge, to keep them behind, really. So the first few meters to the first corner is already going to be quite a big decider for the race.”