Belgian GP: Force India preview

The next round of the FIA Formula One World Championship, the Belgian Grand Prix, will take place just one week after last weekend's European Grand Prix in Valencia. Held at the 7km Spa-Francorchamps circuit in the heart of the country's Ardennes...

The next round of the FIA Formula One World Championship, the Belgian Grand Prix, will take place just one week after last weekend's European Grand Prix in Valencia. Held at the 7km Spa-Francorchamps circuit in the heart of the country's Ardennes Forest, the Belgian Grand Prix is famed for its dramatic undulation changes and challenging corners that generally produce close, exciting racing.

The Force India Formula One Team looks forward to Belgium following a competitive weekend performance in Valencia where new upgrades saw the team secure a slot in Q2 yet again and a promising double top 12 finish in the race.

Team Q&A

Dr Vijay Mallya, chairman and team principal

Were you pleased with the results of Valencia?

I was really delighted with the entire weekend performance from the team, right through from practice. Going into the weekend we anticipated a step forward of over half a second with the new aero package, but you never know what the other teams will be bringing with them and how our performance will translate. I think we can all be very proud of the progress we made. From the off we were quick and we really achieved the maximum we could do. Two top 12 finishes might seem frustrating as we're still outside the points, but when you look at the people in front of us and then behind we can't be disappointed at all. I don't think I've looked forward to a race quite as much as I am looking forward to Spa!

Driver Q&A

Adrian Sutil (car 20, VJM02/01)

How would you review the Valencia weekend?

I feel we did the maximum possible performance in Valencia. It was a tough race in very, very high temperatures but the whole team did a fantastic job. Our stops were great so we could jump Heidfeld in the pits and then in the final third of the race I was just behind Webber, which was very encouraging considering how well the Red Bulls have been performing this season. Getting P1 on Saturday in practice was a real bonus but top 12 is where we are at the moment. This is itself is a real boost for everyone after so long being at the back.

What are your thoughts looking forward to Spa?

Along with Monaco, Spa is one of my favourite tracks. It's a real nature track through the forest where you really get into the rhythm of the corners. It also gives very interesting racing - last year the race was dry until two laps from the end, then it all changed suddenly. This year I think we are looking good. Our new aero package gave a very good step forward and we've been quick at lower downforce tracks so far this year so I'm very confident of getting another good result. I hope top 10 or even better.

Giancarlo Fisichella (car 21, VJM02/04)

Looking forward to Belgium, it's a real drivers' favourite. What makes it so special?

Every driver loves Spa and, for me, it's the best circuit of the year. It's 7km long so you get a lot of different corners, from hairpins to fast sections and then obviously the best corner of the year, Eau Rouge. Actually this corner is not as exciting as it was a few years ago when you only took it flat in qualifying. Now we have more downforce and a bit less power with the V8 so you are usually flat out every time you go through. Even though it's not as challenging now, it's still very exciting. There's a lot of compression when you go down and then you have to jink left and right - it's a complete corner. The weather in Spa is always unpredictable as well. You can have rain in sector one and then it could be sunny in sector three so anything could happen. We are going there at the end of August this year, but we could have any type of weather!

You've had some good results at the circuit - what have been your high points?

My first appearance at Spa was in 1997 with Jordan and I had a great result. I finished second, just behind Hakkinen - at the time it was my best career result. Then I went on to have some more good results and was third in 2001 with Renault. At the time the car was not too good but the team brought some new upgrades to Spa. I made a great start from eighth on the grid and going into the first corner I was fourth. For the rest of the race we were very competitive and I finished third, which was a fantastic result for the team.

What would the aims this year be?

Valencia was a great result for Force India. We could really race in the midfield and seemed to have an advantage over quite a few teams and drivers now. The upgrades made a big difference and the car was nice to drive. Spa is a bit different to Valencia but it's still very quick so I hope we can transfer the performance this week. My aim will be to qualify well so we can start a bit further up the grid, have a strong race and finally score some points.

Force India Belgian Grand Prix points of note:

Force India will be using a new low downforce rear wing in Spa to cope with the lower drag levels needed as it's the first true low downforce circuit of the year and something of a build up to Monza, which will be the lowest level the team runs. The new upgrades debuted in Valencia will be used yet again but there is a new front wing to match as the one used in Valencia will be too powerful to balance the reduced rear downforce.

Adrian was perhaps not surprisingly the most improved driver in Valencia compared to 2008. He managed to go eight tenths quicker than in '08, when the average performance was six tenths slower. He even bettered the improvement shown by Barrichello and Button who were in last year's Honda. He is now the only driver to have improved in every qualifying session so far '08 compared to '09.

Post Spa the team will be conducting yet another aero test: its third of the year. Tonio Liuzzi will be driving at Kemble airfield, UK, on 3 September.

Both drivers returned to their respective homes (Adrian near Zurich in Switzerland and Fisi to Rome) between Europe and Belgium. The team's mechanics and truckies travelled directly to Belgium to begin set-up for the race. At over 1,600km distance this is the longest European double header in recent memory.

Force India's predecessors Jordan Grand Prix scored its first-ever win at the Belgian Grand Prix in 1998 with Damon Hill. Ralf Schumacher, also driving a Jordan, was second for a 1-2 result.

Giancarlo Fisichella scored his second-ever podium at Spa in 1997 (second, driving a Jordan) and has finished on the podium again in 2001 with Renault.

Adrian Sutil set the Euro F3 lap record round Spa in 2005 when he was team-mate to Lewis Hamilton. When the series visited the track that year he won one of the two races and finished second in the final round.

Belgian Grand Prix: View from the pit wall with Force India's chief engineer, Dominic Harlow: Spa is a classic circuit and motorsport in its purest form. The Spa-Francorchamps track incorporates three of the most challenging high speed corners on the calendar and these combine with nearly 7km of flowing corners and elevation change starting at the first gear La Source hairpin and ending at the new Bus Stop chicane.

One thing we can be sure of is that it will almost certainly be wet at some stage, although the race is slightly earlier this year so not in the wetter conditions of autumn. The team has a good history at this event and it should suit the VJM02 technical package well. This race will see the introduction of a lower downforce rear wing that will allow speeds of up to 330km/h. With these long straights the engine is given its toughest work out of the year in terms of inertial loading in Spa and so we will carefully manage the use of our Mercedes Benz engines.

-credit: force india

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Giancarlo Fisichella , Ralf Schumacher , Lewis Hamilton , Damon Hill , Adrian Sutil
Teams Mercedes , Force India , Jordan