Force India’s Adrian Sutil looks ahead to the challenges of the 2009 season as he prepares for his fourth season with the Silverstone-based team…
Q&A with Adrian Sutil
It’s been a very long winter break this year, particularly with very little testing for you! How do you feel about getting back in the car?
I had a good winter break and I feel happy and confident. It was very good to switch off a bit and be at home, but now it’s definitely time to start again. I had very little testing after Brazil, just one and a half days, and now I am getting really tired of this break – I want to go back to work. I feel refreshed, eager to do some good lap times and I am counting down the days, hours and minutes right now!
This is now your fourth season with the Silverstone-based team, the third as a race driver. What does this stability mean for you?
It’s nice to be in a team for such a long time as you get closer to the people, you know everyone and you feel very integrated. On the other hand, it doesn’t matter how long you have been in a team, you still have to prove yourself. Even though this will be the fourth year with the team, I am treating it like the first – I have to show everything I can do and prove myself against all the drivers and do the best job possible.
How much have you learnt in the last three years, and how much from Giancarlo in particular?
I think I have matured a lot in the last three years and having Giancarlo as a team mate last season really did help me. Before I did have good race drivers with me, but they were not race winners. Giancarlo is a strong driver, he won races and finished on the podium a lot of times, so it was a real challenge for me to be against him. I had a few problems at the beginning of last year with the car and also adapting to the 2008 regulations and Giancarlo was doing much better. I could pick up a lot from him then – from his style, his way of working with the tyres, looking at data and so on. He didn’t tell me any big secrets or anything, but I could see how he worked. It was very important to be on the same level, which I think I achieved, so now I think if I have to race against other experienced drivers, I will feel stronger mentally.
Last season was a very mixed season for you. What will your aims be this year, how do you intend to build on last year?
My aim this year is to finish all the races without any problems. We had a lot of technical issues last year so our goal should be to reduce those problems and try to be reliable and consistent. The results will depend on the car. If the car is really good, as we all hope it will be, we should hope to get into the points and make the most of it, but right now I don’t want to predict results or say too much, I just want to have a season without any problems and a much higher finish rate. Everything else depends on the package; we will see how it all turns out.
There have been many regulation changes this year. What will be the biggest challenge for you this year? Slicks, KERS or aero regulations?
Yes, this year there are so many big changes and the cars are completely different. There’s new aero design, new tyres, KERS, so it is a real challenge for everyone. I think slicks will be the biggest challenge. For a driver KERS is just a button. If the team has done a good job it will work well to give you a boost, but when you use it comes down to strategy. If the aero is good the car will seem well balanced, but the slicks will completely change the behaviour of the car. Nobody has a huge amount of experience with them, at least not any more, so it will be a big challenge for everyone.
Do you think this raft of changes will make the grid closer this season?
I think so as nobody really knows where they are in relation to the rest of the field. The teams seem to be a bit more mixed; some of the stronger teams last year have had problems in testing, some are really quick, so I think there is a change in the field. For everyone it’s a really big challenge and it’s good for the sport – it will make it very interesting.
And within Force India there have been a number of changes.
It has to be positive for us. The co-operation with McLaren and Mercedes has been good so far as the team can work more efficiently now and can concentrate on the aerodynamics and other areas of the car that have more impact on performance. It’s a package from a world championship-winning team and it’s the best we could get, so it’s a great opportunity. That’s why I think people are so motivated here now – it looks very promising.
Do you see the late debut of the VJM02 as a disadvantage?
Signing with McLaren and Mercedes was the right decision to take all round. Of course it delayed everything slightly, but we have a better overall package now. We have to make the testing days count as we are very limited, but in general it is better to have a decent car at the start of the year and to start a little bit later, than get going earlier with one that needs sorting out.