Following its inaugural points and podium at the Belgian Grand Prix two weeks ago, the Force India Formula One Team goes to the next round of the FIA Formula One World Championship, the Italian Grand Prix, in a buoyant mood. The team this time...
Following its inaugural points and podium at the Belgian Grand Prix two weeks ago, the Force India Formula One Team goes to the next round of the FIA Formula One World Championship, the Italian Grand Prix, in a buoyant mood.
The team this time out will have a different look, with Tonio Liuzzi joining Adrian Sutil in the driver line-up following Giancarlo Fisichella's switch to the Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro team.
Dr Vijay Mallya, chairman and team principal
Spa was obviously a great race for the team. Are you confident this is a genuine reflection of the team's performance right now? We went to Spa with a continuation of our Valencia upgrade, which we knew would give a big step up. We genuinely believed we would get two cars into Q2 and be at the top of this session, but pole was beyond even our hopes! But after that we set the bar very high and the podium was just a dream. I think we will be hard pushed to repeat this in Monza but we certainly will go there confident we can surprise a few people. I don't think anyone would count us out now.
How will Monza suit the VJM02?
If you are quick in Spa generally you will go well in Monza so I would hope we would be again top of Q2 and in the hunt for points. I do think KERS will play a big part this time in Monza so, as Kimi showed in Spa, it may be difficult to run ahead or stay ahead of the KERS-equipped cars. That's not to say we won't give it a good shot though.
You have a new driver line-up this time out - how do you see this pairing?
We obviously have a new race driver pairing in Adrian and Tonio, but the two of them have been team-mates for the past one and a half years. They know each other well, they know how the team operates and they know the cars so we really should be able to pick up where we left off last weekend. I expect Tonio will take some time to get up to speed on Friday but I think he will be on it pretty much by qualifying. I am sure that's his goal as well.
Adrian Sutil (car 20, VJM02/01)
How are you looking forward to Monza?
I can't wait for Monza. Giancarlo had such a good weekend in Spa, with pole and then the podium, that it's really made me want to get in the car and do the same. For various reasons I didn't feel like I personally got the results in Spa I felt we could have so for sure I will want to go better in Italy. We've got a good car, I feel very confident in it and in the team and our top speeds have consistently been amongst the quickest in the field so I think we have a good shot at getting another good finish.
What is special about Monza for you?
Monza is one of those tracks that have so much history about it. Even coming into the circuit in the morning you see the old banking, the grandstands and think about how much racing has gone on here. The crowds are just incredible too. You can sometimes hear the crowd even over the engine so the atmosphere is always amazing. The track itself can be quite tricky to get right, particularly under braking into the chicanes, so everything about the event is interesting for me.
In Monza you have a new team-mate - how do you feel about this?
I think it's a great opportunity for both Giancarlo to go to Ferrari and achieve a dream and also for Tonio to finally get some race mileage in the car. Of course it's a shame it happened because of Felipe's accident but it's an opportunity for both Giancarlo and Tonio as well. Having a change mid-season isn't a problem for me - I've had this situation once before in 2007 - and I know Tonio very well now we've spent two years together in the same team. He's a good guy and we work well together, he's always been very open with information and he's done a great job in the testing and development. Together I think we can carry on the progress we've made so far and get some good results.
Tonio Liuzzi (car 21, VJM02/04)
Tonio, it's the eve of your first race with Force India. How do you feel?
I'm really looking forward to it. I was hungry to be back in the race seat again as it was my aim for the future and it's happened in a good way - for Monza, my home race and this year. I think it will be a big test for me to show what I can do. It's a good opportunity for me to show what I can do after one and a half years of being a third driver.
What have you been doing between Monday, when your seat was announced, and now? How have you been preparing?
Of course I've kept myself fit and I've been trying to get closer to the team and get closer to the routine a race driver does, getting used to all the procedures of a race driver; so the starts, steering wheel, seat position, and so on. For sure I've been giving it more than 100% on the fitness side as I need to be ready and fit for Monza.
Do you feel any extra pressure making your F1 comeback after a year and a half away from racing?
There will be pressure but I am confident I will get back into it quickly. I am just one and a half years out of racing and in 2008 I did a lot of mileage with Force India as they gave me the chance to do more than 15 test days. I am also fully involved with the team in the development of the car. For sure it won't be easy but I think Monza is the best place to restart. It's smooth, really fast with lots of straights and not too many corners and I'm pretty confident that we will be straight away setting a good pace.
Do you have any aims for the race and the rest of the season?
For sure to give the best to the team and to try and bring as many points as possible. After Spa we set big aims for the future but it won't be that easy to finish on the podium for the remaining races. My biggest dream will be to get a podium, but being objective the most important thing is to score as many points to bring the team up the team championship order.
Force India Italian Grand Prix points of note:
Tonio Liuzzi will be taking over car number 21 following Giancarlo Fisichella's switch to Ferrari. Tonio has been the team's test and reserve driver since the start of the 2008 season. He last drove the VJM02 in a straight line aero test at Kemble airfield, UK, on 3 September where he tested the Monza downforce configuration.
Tonio's last F1 race was the 2007 Brazilian Grand Prix with Toro Rosso. To date he has contested 39 Grands Prix, with a career-best result of sixth coming in the rain-lashed 2007 Chinese Grand Prix. He has scored a total of five points, including one point on his race debut.
Adrian and Tonio have both driven in two Italian GPs; Tonio in 2006 and 2007 and Adrian in 2007 and 2008. Tonio is actually a race winner at Monza, having taken victory at the Italian round of F3000 in 2004.
Force India achieved its first-ever Q2 result at Monza last year when Giancarlo Fisichella started in 12th position. At the time it was the team's best starting position.
Italian Grand Prix: View from the pit wall with Force India's chief engineer, Dominic Harlow: Monza is a great way to round off the European season. It's the oldest permanent Grand Prix circuit still in use, and the cars still run on the original road course main straight. The length of the straights means the teams run their lowest drag and downforce configurations, only about 70% of what is possible at a slower circuit. This in turn results in the highest top and average speeds and hence the shortest race time.
Over 200mph is commonplace in Monza with cars approaching this velocity three times a lap. The track is hard on brakes with three chicanes interrupting the flow and the chicane kerbs are always taken very aggressively. From an engineering perspective it will be a challenge to optimise the cars for this unique environment without the traditional pre-race test.
Of course you can't fail to be moved by the atmosphere and history of the place combined with the parkland setting at the end of summer.
-credit: force india