Force India believe that Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, with its mix of long straights and tight hairpins, should suit their VJM03 as F1 heads to Canada this weekend.
The team picked up seven points in the last race in Turkey, and team principal Vijay Mallya thinks Force India can carry this momentum on to the North American race. “Obviously scoring points is always something we are happy about,” says Mallya. “Seeing the race pace of our car compared to others, I think we’re right up there, racing with the Ferraris and Mercedes, which is a very nice position to be in.
“It’s positive proof of our improvement and our movement this year. Looking forward to Canada, I firmly believe we’re still in good shape.
We have some more development parts coming for this race, including some new aero parts for the low downforce configuration, and we are testing the switchable rear wing (the SRW – Force India’s version of the McLaren F-duct) further on both cars this weekend.
“Tonio will also revert back to the chassis used for the first four races as we continue to look into why he’s got the lack of grip. But both the drivers like the track, and on a personal and professional level I’m delighted to be going back there.
“It’s great for Formula 1 to be back in North America, which has been conspicuous in its absence as it’s such a big market and it opens up new doors for sponsors and marketing activities.
“We are fully focussed on the task in hand, which is to score as many points as we can and to regain that fifth position in the championship,” added Mallya. “We’re not so far away from Renault and there are plenty of opportunities left to rack points up and some circuits that we should really fly on, including Montreal.”
Adrian Sutil is yet to finish a race in Canada in two previous attempts, but thinks that the experience he has gained since 2008 will help him this weekend. “The first years I went there I think I was a little impetuous and went for a position that wasn’t there, but I feel there’s a new person going back with more self confidence and understanding,” explains the German.
“I’m really looking forward to the race as I enjoyed Turkey, it was always challenging and, despite it not being the easiest weekend, we still scored points, which shows we can still do well even when the conditions are tough.
“I love Montreal and the atmosphere and the track itself is quite a challenge. There isn’t a lot of grip as it isn’t used very much over the year, although it does improve slightly over the weekend. The long straights and hairpins need a low downforce configuration and it feels a bit like a street circuit as well, which I love. It’s still good for racing as you can slipstream into the corners and brake late.
“To do well there you need a powerful engine and high straightline speed and a low drag car that’s efficient and a good, soft balance over the kerbs. That’s exactly what we’ve got so I’m feeling really good going into this race.”
Both Sutil and teammate Tonio Liuzzi tested the SRW device in Turkey, and Sutil thinks that Force India have found a usable version of the McLaren F-duct: “It’s a really good system for me as I can use it without taking my hands off the steering wheel and once we introduce it long-term it will be very easy to use. We saw on Tonio’s car that it gave a big improvement, so if we can use it on my car it will be a real step forward. We will test it some more in Canada and hopefully get some good data together.”
Summing up his season so far, Adrian Sutil was positive about how it is progressing, and about how he will perform in the future. “I’m feeling relaxed at this point in the season now, more so than I’ve ever felt since coming into F1. I’ve got a good car and a good team of people around me and it’s much nicer to go into a race weekend thinking you can fight for the points.
“Last year was just the start, we were generally Q2 and hoping to beat a few cars; this year we’re able to get into the top five and even then we’re still looking for more. If you have a good car you’re mentally much stronger, happier and more confident and when you’re happier you drive faster.
“I think it’s a real achievement for us to be at this stage as we’re still a very small team, one of the smallest on the grid, but we’re still achieving great results. The best thing is also that we still have some more to come in terms of developments. We’re definitely still pushing very hard.”
Tonio Liuzzi has been disappointing in recent races, and went out in the first part of qualifying in Turkey. “The last few races have been pretty tough as we’ve been struggling with a general lack of grip that makes it hard for me to give the maximum,” explains the Italian. “Monaco was OK and I thought we had solved the issues so it was quite frustrating in Turkey that I couldn’t make the most of our new development items.
“We’ve put in some long hours at the factory and found some minor damage on the chassis that we picked up in Monaco. We thought we had fixed it but as a precaution we are switching back to the chassis I used in the first four races. We’ll look at the chassis again back in the factory and see if we can find any other areas we need to address.”
Overall I like the event [in Canada] and I’m pretty fast there, I’ve qualified in the top 12 before and I’ve had some exciting races,” added Liuzzi. “If the car behaves well I could be in good shape because I’ve been fast there in the past and we should have an advantage with the new aerodynamic improvements we are bringing to this race.
“Additionally, we have all the right items to be quick over one lap. We have a good straightline speed and good traction out of the tight corners so we are pretty optimistic that we will go well in Montreal.
“I don’t think we lost as much ground to Renault in Turkey as it might have seemed and I think Adrian showed that we still have a top ten package over a full race distance. If I can get the grip I need I hope I’ll be back knocking on the door of Q3 and in the hunt for points.
“As we’ve seen before Canada is pretty unpredictable and if we are up at the front we could get some really decent points, hopefully another double points finish, which will be good for the team at this stage.”
The team’s reserve driver Paul di Resta has been taking part in first practice at some race weekends, but will not be in the car in Canada. “I’m not driving this time out in Canada as Adrian and Tonio need some more time in the car,” explains the Scot. “It’s been a couple of years since they’ve driven at the track and, as it’s such a specific track with the low downforce and tight hairpins, they will benefit from some extra track time to refamiliarise themselves. Also we’ve got some more work to do on the SRW.
“I’m comfortable with sitting out the session as I’ll be back out in Valencia. As usual I’ll be participating in the meetings and walking the track – I’ve never been to Montreal so the experience will be good.
“During the sessions I sit on the pit wall to listen into the discussions but also to help with spotting and any feedback the team might need. I’m feeling really integrated and even when I’m not driving there’s still plenty I can contribute.”