Force India head to Korea this weekend looking to forget a disastrous race in Japan where the recorded a double DNF. The team now lie just two points ahead of Williams in the constructors’ championship, and they will be hoping for a big improvement at the brand new Yeongam circuit.
“Of course we were disappointed by the Japanese event: we didn’t make the most of qualifying and we had a double retirement in the race,” said Vijay Mallya, chairman and team principal. “We’ve got some work to do to maintain our advantage in the constructors’ championship but I am confident in our own reserves, our drivers and ability to maintain it until the finish. To this end we’ve put a lot of effort into the Korean Grand Prix. We’ve got some changes to the front wing and a small mechanical update that we didn’t use in Suzuka because of the weather. We are also looking at introducing some new aero tweaks to strengthen performance, but of course we want to make sure any effort is targeted and will give a genuine improvement.
“It’s going to be a very interesting event for us as a team. It’s a new track, a new country that very few people on the team have been to before so it will be a big challenge for us to address. We’ve tried to gather us much information on both the facility and the area in advance to make it as smooth as possible. Both drivers have been in the simulator to learn the layout and the team will fly out earlier than usual to get used to the area, the track and of course the jet lag – we realise it’s a very hard time of year for everyone.”
“For myself I’m very excited about the prospect of another race in Asia, and particularly a race in this market. There is a large amount of industry and potential worldwide business to come from an Asian tiger such as South Korea, which has the fourth largest economy in Asia and the second largest metropolitan city in the world in Seoul. It’s got a lot to offer Formula 1 and I hope we can, in turn, bring a lot to the region as well.”
Adrian Sutil succumbed to a spectacular retirement at Suzuka, a huge plume of smoke suggesting an engine-related problem. The German has been preparing for his first visit to new circuit, and is looking forward to his visit to Korea.
“I drove the Yeongam circuit on the simulator earlier this week to get a head start on what to expect when we arrive. It looks as though it is a good circuit with plenty of interesting corners and sections that could provide some overtaking opportunities. I would say overall it’s a medium speed circuit – there are three long straights where you can reach over 315kph but also some slow to medium sections that will bring the overall speed down. There’s a real mix of corners, including some Tilke ‘trademarks’ such as a hairpin after one of the straights and some more flowing curves.
“I’ve seen and driven the layout on the sim, but what you can’t get an idea of is the bumps, the grip levels and the kerbs. As the track surface has been laid only very recently it’s going to evolve over the weekend – I expect this to be one of the major talking points of the weekend and we’ll look to get as much information on Friday. I expect we’d run a medium level of downforce on the circuit but a lot will depend on the bumps and the track surface. If there is a lot of grip then we could even run a lower level but we’ll see when we get there. It just means practice will be busier than usual as this is the kind of information you can only get when you drive the cars on the track.
“Aside from learning a new track, which is always a pleasure to do, I’m also very keen to see some of Korea. I love Asia and discovering new places in the region and I’ve not been to this area before at all. I’ll have a day in Seoul, which I’ve heard is a really vibrant place, and then I’ll head down to the south to the more rural area the circuit’s in for Wednesday night. It’s going to be an interesting weekend as we’ve got a big battle on our hands at the moment. We’ve got to do better in qualifying this race and then of course finish – it was a disappointment not to get to the end as the car has been very reliable this year, but it just makes me more determined to get points this time out, both for myself and for the team.”
Tonio Liuzzi didn’t even make it out of the first corner of the Japanese Grand Prix, colliding with the Ferrari of Felipe Massa through no fault of his own. The Italian suspects that Friday practice will be busy in Korea, and is hoping for a better qualifying than those he has had at recent races.
“After two very short races in Singapore and in Japan I now can’t wait to get out there in Korea to get a proper race. There was nothing I could do about the outcome of my Japanese Grand Prix. I had had a really good start and I was already past five or six cars as I went into the first corner, but then suddenly I saw Massa coming across the circuit at me like a rocket. I was just a passenger and didn’t stand a chance. The real shame is that at that point I was in a brilliant position for the race and we could have scored some very good points.
“This week I’ve been in the factory and have had a day in the simulator to get to know the Korean circuit. My first impression of the track is that it will be a pretty nice one to drive. It has a lot of different types of corners, from slow to high and it won’t be easy to find a set up that will suit every type of corner you have there. I think the first sector with the long, long straights and tight corner into another straight will really suit our car; the second sector not as much but we will see when we get there – so much will depend on the grip levels and the track surface.
“It will make Friday practice pretty busy as we look through all the data and try to get the most out of the car and the tyres. We’ve got a couple of new tweaks on the car as well that will make the programme even more charged. Plus I will have another chassis to use in Korea and for the last three races as my car was very badly damaged in Japan.
“My goal this time out is of course to go the whole distance in the race and also to make the most of qualifying as we have really been struggling in this area. We have found it hard to get temperature into the tyres over one flying lap and that means we’ve started further back, but we will try and understand it and see if we can improve. I’m looking forward to getting out there and doing a good job throughout the weekend; it’s going to be an interesting one for sure.”
Paul di Resta, the Force India test and reserve driver, will be joining the team in Korea, but will not be in the car for Friday practice. The Scot come to the track fresh from his third successive win in the DTM series – a victory which also secured him the championship lead.
“For the second event in a row I’ll be going to another new track and country I’ve not visited before. As we decided at the start of the season, I’m not going to be driving in Korea as it’s a new track for everyone and the drivers will need the extra track time to get used to its nuances. With the track being ready so late, that extra time is even more important as the conditions are going to evolve very, very quickly over the race weekend.
“From my perspective however it will be interesting to see the new venue and also experience how the team prepares for a completely new event, both at the track and back at the factory. I’m sure the whole paddock will be a different atmosphere, as no one really knows what to expect. We’ve heard it’s a great facility so let’s hope it is as good as it sounds. Like everyone else on the team I’m looking forward to seeing something completely new.”