Force India are looking to build on their strong finish in 2009 as the new Formula 1 season gets underway in Bahrain in just a few days time.
The team are hoping to establish itself as a strong competitive team that can regularly challenge for points and even podium.
Adrian Sutil and Tonio Liuzzi remain with the team and, along with new test and reserve driver Paul di Resta, they completed more than 4,000 km in pre-season testing.
Team Principal Vijay Mallya is confident that the team can push-on after reaching important racing milestones last season. “We finished 2009 on a real high note – our first-ever points, a podium and one place up in the constructors’ championship. That is enough in itself to set the bar much higher this season, but we’re really determined to take it to the next level. Regular points and the odd podium have got to be the aim and we know it is possible. I have a lot of faith in the drivers and the technical staff, I think we’ve got into a very good rhythm together now.”
When asked about the progress made in pre-season testing, Mallya was also positive with his team’s work throughout the winter months. “I have been very encouraged by the entire performance, both at the track and at the factory. The testing times gave very positive headlines, but it is very difficult to know where we are until we get to Bahrain. Certainly however the initial reports from the drivers are encouraging and when that happens it’s worth another three to four tenths – if they feel happy and confident in the car then that they can really attack.”
Adrian Sutil shares his bosses’ confidence in the VJM03. “The baseline car we have now after 12 days of testing looks very good and promising. The changes we have made during the winter have all had a positive effect. Testing went well and although there was a lot of rain over the period, the last two days in Barcelona were OK. We did our long runs and a lot of work with the tyres so we are fully prepared. We are pretty confident that our car is good enough to be in the top ten in Bahrain.”
Sutil, like everybody else, can’t be sure about the relative performance of his rival’s new cars, but can suggest who he thinks the teams to beat will be. “You can see a little bit, but you can’t be 100% sure as you never know what the other teams are doing with their programme. That said, you can tell that some of the big teams like McLaren and Ferrari look very strong on both the long runs and qualifying runs and are always on the top of the timesheets. I am expecting them to be on the top again in the race weekend but we are not far away and that’s a really good sign.”
The driver is aiming for a good points finish in Bahrain on Sunday. “Hopefully in the top ten and I think that should be possible. I would hope we could score a few points. For everything else, it is very difficult to say what else will happen, but I am fine with any position within the top 10 – that’s my goal for the moment.
Tonio Liuzzi, Force India’s second driver, is also extremely enthusiastic after trying the VJM03 in pre-season testing. “In my five years of F1 this is definitely the best car I’ve driven, It’s the most balanced, and knowing that has made me feel so much stronger and confident. Of course you can never know exactly where you are compared to the others but we can go to Bahrain feeling optimistic and positive.”
However, he is not so enthusiastic about the new layout of the Sakhir circuit in Bahrain. “I’ve had a look on Google earth and on the simulator. I think they have just made it much longer and slower and I’m not a big fan of this type of track as I love high speed corners and circuits. I don’t think there will be any more overtaking opportunities as the track goes through too tight an area. But it’s the same for everybody and we need to get used it. We’ll see when we walk the track on Thursday.”
Like his teammate, Liuzzi is also targeting a points finish in the opening race. “For the first race we want to show that our winter work has paid off. Points are our target for the time being and getting into the top ten, as high as possible. Being realistic, a few points should be feasible and hopefully everything goes as well as in testing with good reliability for the first race.”