European GP: Force India preview

Following a three-week break, the FIA Formula One World Championship returns to action with the 12th of the 18 round series, and a completely new event: the European Grand Prix, to be held on the streets of the vibrant city of Valencia. The...

Following a three-week break, the FIA Formula One World Championship returns to action with the 12th of the 18 round series, and a completely new event: the European Grand Prix, to be held on the streets of the vibrant city of Valencia.

The city's marina, which also played host to the America's Cup last year, will be converted into a temporary street circuit. The race will be the first new event on the calendar this year, and the second of three street course races that will be used in 2008.

Team quotes

Dr Vijay Mallya, chairman and managing director

We're now in the second part of the season, what will the team's goals be for this period?

The seamless shift gearbox will really be our last development for 2008 and we will now shift our focus to 2009 in the second part of the year. There will however still be opportunities up for grabs and we need to look to maximise them now. Really what Force India has proved is that we look competitive in race conditions and, under the right circumstances, can pick up points if the chances come our way. We've performed well on street courses too, and with two in the final part, this could be a good opportunity for us. We need to look for a 100% reliability rate to ensure that whenever these chances come our way we are really able to take advantage.

So there are still chances in 2008; how will the resources for 2008 and 2009 be divided?

Although 2009 is a big opportunity, there are still points up for grabs this year. We've got some good potential chances coming up and if we take our eye off the ball we could miss out on getting some good finishes. That said, work for 2009 will step up immensely towards the end of the season so we can make sure we are ready.

The championship is now going to Valencia for the first time. Are you excited by this prospect?

Yes, of course, I think Valencia should be a great venue for a race, like a little Monaco. I've seen the plans for the circuit and it looks like it should pass through some of the newest parts of the city. I think it should be some sight to see the cars going past the marina and the boats, very reminiscent of the Principality. I think it will be a great event for the team, fans and sponsors.

Colin Kolles, team principal

What has the team been up to in the three week break?

The three week break is actually an opportunity for the race team to take some time off as it's been a very busy few months with the testing and racing. With the season being 18 races this year, it's a long season and it's good to take time off while it's a bit quieter. We didn't completely shut down though - following the tests and running of the seamless shift box in Hungary, we've gone over the data and are making sure we are fully prepared for its introduction under race conditions in Valencia. We also took part in the Rotterdam Racing event, which was great fun for the team and the drivers.

Valencia will be a new event, what are your views on the new events on the calendar?

F1 needs to keep itself fresh so of course it's good to introduce it to new markets with new potential marketing and commercial opportunities. Although Spain has long had a race, this is a completely new venture for the sport, with a street race round a very recognisable, vibrant city looking to make its mark on the world stage. As such it's an opportunity to attract new brands and fans into the sport.

Valencia is another street race, one of three on the calendar. Do you think F1 needs more races like this?

I think I won't be alone in saying everyone loves street races as they are much more immediate. Seeing how fast the cars can get on the streets you drive every day really puts the speed and the accuracy needed into perspective. The races are also much more unpredictable as the guardrails are so close so anything could happen. I think Valencia could become a real classic.

Mike Gascoyne, chief technical officer

The seamless shift gearbox ran on Friday in Hungary, and will race in Valencia. What was the rationale behind this?

We tested the gearbox for the first time at a shakedown in Silverstone, and then again for three days in Jerez, but for such an important component, it really isn't enough to be able to validate it. Running it on Friday in Hungary gave the opportunity to conduct further testing, plus we avoided the penalties of changing gearboxes in the middle of a four race cycle. The 'boxes we used in Hungary were three races into the four race cycle, and changing them would have incurred a grid penalty. It made sense to put some more miles on it, then use when we are at the start of another four race cycle.

So what will the net result be over the course of a lap?

Our simulations typically show a benefit of two to three tenths over one lap, and possibly more as the driver has the option to get on the power earlier as the car isn't upset by the gear change. The driver can therefore be much smoother with the acceleration, so there is less disturbance when cornering and under power. We will see an advantage everywhere as you will always ratio the gearbox to get the most out of it at each circuit, so its effect over a lap will be fairly consistent from circuit to circuit.

What were the processes involved in introducing the gearbox mid-season?

With its limited resources the team has done a very good job to get it introduced this season. It is a big thing for a small team to introduce such a large component mid-season as we don't have the transient dynos and test rigs that the other teams have. Really we were only able to start work on the box when we became Force India and had reasonable levels of budgets and resources to make it work. From an engineering point of view the team has done an excellent job to get it ready on time, and the gearbox department has done well to make the introduction of the seamless box almost seamless in itself.

Are there risks involved in introducing it mid-season?

Of course there are always risks associated with introducing a gearbox mid-season due to the limited mileage, but I think this was a step the team has had to make for the future. The first box we ran got to over three race event distances before stopping with a very minor problem, so a very, very good effort in terms of reliability. Obviously we will be fixing the small problems we have seen, but I think we should be able to cope with this.

Why did the team not introduce it sooner?

We've not been able to introduce it previously purely due to a resource and finance issue. We didn't have either the engineering resources or the budget to be able to take the risk to introduce it and it's only now as Force India that we have everything in place to be able to make it work. In terms of the actual project however, it's been very well done and pushed through, which is in itself a measure of the growing strength of the team.

How does the team prepare for a new event?

Going to new circuits presents a different challenge for the team, but it's an interesting challenge for the engineers as well as the drivers and Valencia in itself will be a fascinating and unique event. In terms of preparation, we obviously look at the track layout and put this into our computer simulations so we have a fair idea of the nature of the circuit. There are some things you can't understand from the computers however, specifically the nature of the tarmac, how the tyres are going to react, whether you can use the kerbs or not, and so on are all unknown quantities until we get to the track. It's a good challenge though and will keep us busy!

Driver quotes

Adrian Sutil (car 20)

'Over the summer break I've been training in the mountains and working on my fitness for the second half of the year, which will be tough with the four flyaway races at the end of the season. We had some good races at the same circuits last year and I scored my first point in Fuji, so for sure I am looking forward to these races. As the new events in Valencia and Singapore are street events, and we've had some good races on this type of circuit, I think we have a good chance of getting some good finishes.

'Looking to the next race in Valencia, we will be using the seamless shift gearbox for the first time at a race and hopefully that will give us a few tenths to be able to qualify a bit better. This has got to be the goal for the second half of the year.'

Giancarlo Fisichella (car 21)

'I am looking forward to getting back in the car after the short break. I took some time off to be with my family and do some training, so I feel quite refreshed and ready to tackle the last races of the season, especially as they include some of my favourite tracks - particularly my home race in Monza. My targets for the rest of the season will be to have good reliability, finish all the races and be there if there are opportunities to score points.

'Valencia is a completely new track for everyone and a good challenge. It looks very fast, particularly for a street circuit, and I've heard it is sold out so the atmosphere will be good. I am pleased we will be able to actually race the new seamless shift gearbox now. We've been having some good fights so far, particularly with Honda, and with the gearbox worth a couple of tenths per lap this may just move us in front - the field is so close now that any new developments will move us closer.'

European Grand Prix information

Although Spain is no stranger to motorsport, for the first time in its history, the city of Valencia will host a round of the FIA Formula One World Championship. The vibrant city, set on the shores of the Mediterranean, has long been undergoing intensive regeneration, and the race is the latest step in the city's programme.

The circuit will be run around the marina area of the city, which was used for the 2007 edition of the America's Cup sailing competition. The pit and paddock complex will back onto the waterfront, a setting reminiscent of the Monaco Grand Prix. Although the city's relatively narrow streets will be used, some of the track will pass over bridges and roadways in the marina district.

At 5.473km long, lap times are expected to be around the 1min 36 mark with an average of around 200kph, a top speed of almost 320kph and a minimum of 95kph. With 25 corners in various turn combinations, including long straights, flowing curves, right angles and wide hairpins it's not the typical tight street circuit, and overtaking could be possible. With the guardrails however close to the circuit, any mistake could spell the end of the race.

-credit: force india

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Giancarlo Fisichella , Mike Gascoyne , Adrian Sutil , Colin Kolles
Teams Force India