Force India begin their fourth season in F1 next weekend in Australia, and their team principal believes that they should be able to build on a successful 2010.
“2010 was an exceptional year for the team, 68 points overall, seventh in the championship with only teams who had previously won world titles ahead of us, which demonstrated we are still on target to achieve our goals,” said Vijay Mallya. “And this year there is even more to be optimistic about.”
The team welcome Scot Paul di Resta to their line-up to partner Adrian Sutil this season, and new test and reserve driver Nico Hulkenberg. Mallya believes that they have very motivated group of drivers, each determined to take their racing careers to the next level.
“We have race drivers who are hungry to take the next steps in their careers, whether that be points, podiums or wins,” he said. “Paul proved his mettle in DTM and for the team last year, making valuable contribution to the development of the VJM04 with his simulation work. Nico (HÃ¼lkenberg) joins as test and reserve driver having taken pole position in Brazil in his rookie season in 2010 and we are glad to start our long-term relationship together.
“Adrian scored 47 points for the team last year and finished just outside the top ten. He is one of the most consistent young drivers and we are very pleased that he is with us for a fifth consecutive race season.”
Sutil himself predicts that the opening races of 2011 could be difficult as they search for more speed from the VJM04, but he is confident of having a good season.
“We have a reliable car, which is positive, and this will help us during the first few races,” explained the German. “But we still need to look for more speed and we require a little more time to understand the developments and aero side of the car. The first few races may be a little tough in that respect, but for sure we shall pick up our race pace soon.”
Pirelli tyres, the re-introduction of KERS, and the driver-adjustable rear-wings are all introduced in the regulations this year, and Sutil is predicting more pit stops and more overtaking.
“I think the new rules are quite interesting,” he said. “They are challenging for a driver as you have to concentrate even more to press quite a few buttons during qualifying and the race. I like it though, and have been able to handle the changes quite well.
“The new regulations make more power available so that the car can go faster, especially on the straights, which is always a good thing. Overtaking should be easier and there will probably be more pitstops, so we are in for some exciting races.”
After a retirement in Melbourne last year, Sutil has a simple aim for the season’s Australian Grand Prix: “I hope that I will be able to finish the race as last year the gearbox let us down. It is always a good feeling to finish the first race, as you then know that the season has really started.
“It was a crazy race in Australia last year when the rain came in; I think only ten cars made it to finish. This is also why I think it is so important to finish the race in Melbourne – there are usually points to be won if you see the chequered flag.”
Paul di Resta embarks on his first season in Formula 1 next weekend, two weeks later than he was expecting, thanks to the cancellation of the Bahrain race.
“I am very excited [about Australia] obviously, but it is a strange feeling as the first race was cancelled and everything was prepared for that,” the Scot explained. “But the last few weeks have been pretty seamless and I am fully prepared for the race in Australia. I enjoyed the track last year and Melbourne is a great city.
As for his expectation in the opening race, the 24-year-old is keeping his cards close to his chest: “I am open minded and will be concentrating on performance, getting the best out of the car on the Friday and Saturday to see what areas we need to improve as a team for the race. As for my personal expectations I am going to be realistic and gauge how it goes over the weekend and focus on the job in hand.”