After three long haul races in four weeks, the Force India Formula One Team now returns to the relative comfort of the European season, with regular intervals and shorter distances between races and the benefit of its own fully-equipped trucks and...
After three long haul races in four weeks, the Force India Formula One Team now returns to the relative comfort of the European season, with regular intervals and shorter distances between races and the benefit of its own fully-equipped trucks and motorhome.
The Spanish Grand Prix, held at the 4.655km Circuit de Catalunya on the outskirts of the vibrant Catalan city of Barcelona, will be the first race on the European continent. It's a track all the teams know inside-out and back-to-front from the laps they pound round there in pre-season testing: Force India alone put in a total of six calendar days and nine car days over two winter tests, covering 3,491km or 750 laps, more than 11 race distances.
Force India now looks to carry forward its momentum from the first three races, which showed the team racing in the midfield and getting ever-closer to going into Q2 for the first time since the 2006 Japanese Grand Prix. At the last race in Bahrain, the team achieved its first double finish of the year and, with new developments honed in a further three-day test at the Circuit de Catalunya last week, there's reason to hope the upward trend will continue.
Dr. Vijay Mallya, chairman and managing director
'A tenth of a second has never mattered as much as now. All the guys at the track and back at the factory are doing everything they possibly can to get every millisecond and we are now tantalisingly close to that competitive midfield group. I have every confidence and no doubt that it will come. If you look at what we have achieved over the winter in just five months, which isn't very long in the context of this sport, you'll see just how much we've come on. We're no longer at the back and though it will get tougher here on in, it's a golden opportunity for us.
'Our relative success has led to the popularity of Formula One growing exponentially in India. We've attracted a lot of positive print and TV coverage back home and everyone is congratulating the team on the progress we have made. We are deploying all our resources to keep it up and make sure that the team, and in turn the sport, retains this wave of support.
'No one expects miracles, but the fact that we qualified close to the top 16 and finished in the top 12 in Malaysia and Bahrain demonstrates everything is happening strongly and positively. At this stage of the season everything counts and that's the challenge we face now.'
Colin Kolles, team principal
'Unfortunately we missed out on Q2 in Bahrain by just over a tenth, but again Giancarlo put in a very impressive race with very competitive lap times to finish 12th. Adrian had unfortunately an incident at the start that compromised his race, however he managed to finish the race with a strong performance.
'This outing in Bahrain demonstrated our improving form, which we hope will continue in Barcelona. Our targets this time out will be to reach Q2 in qualifying and to score points. We are working very hard to reach these targets and I am confident we will reach them sooner rather than later.'
Mike Gascoyne, chief technical officer
'For the Spanish Grand Prix we will introduce some more aerodynamic updates, which is really a continuation of our cycle of aero development that has produced new parts for every race so far this year.
'We tested these parts, and also some new parts for suspension set-ups and some improvements on the braking system, at the test in Barcelona last week. In general we had three very productive days with a lot of laps and worked through the whole of our test programme and certainly found some positive steps forward. This culminated in the dramatic improvement in lap times from the previous test, with all the drivers reporting improved downforce and grip.
'We have been very close to getting into Q2 and that has to be a target. We have also shown that we can race very competitively, so now we have to be racing to get into the top 10 and maybe even pick up a point. Overall we can go to Barcelona feeling very positive.'
Giancarlo Fisichella (car 21, VJM01/05)
'The VJM01 for sure seems to be moving forward with each race, and the Barcelona test confirmed this very clearly. It has more grip overall, but especially under braking, so it is more stable and we are able to push. We've gone from a 1min 22.2 lap round Barcelona in February to a 1min 20.7 at the test last week, which even if some is down to improved track conditions, it is still a step forward.
'With new aero parts coming in Spain too, I am pretty sure we can carry on with this progress as all the parts that have been fitted to the car so far have worked really well - our aero department has got the right ideas!
'This week's Spanish Grand Prix will be as close as it has been in the past. I enjoy the track, it is one of my favourite circuits so if we play it right, I think we have a good chance. Our closest opponents at the moment are probably Toro Rosso and Honda; we are all just outside the point scoring area and are fighting for any chance. I want to be there fighting again this year and taking advantage of anything that comes our way.'
Adrian Sutil (car 20, VJM01/02)
'Bahrain was a difficult race for many reasons. At the first corner I came together with Coulthard and lost my front wing and picked up a puncture in my front left tyre, and the race was over really. I was very disappointed, but the most positive thing to take away was that I could finish the race. I could do some mileage, and just try different things with all the settings. It was like a test session really, and I tried to push to do it like a race simulation.
'When we could push the race pace was not bad. It's very close, and I'm now looking to have the opportunity where I can really race with other cars. Unfortunately in the first three races there hasn't been a chance, but if you see the race pace, compared with other cars we were really on it.
'Let's see how it is in Barcelona. We had a very good test last week where we tried out some new parts, which worked well and gave an increase in grip and stability. I think with the small steps we have made we really have a chance go in to Q2 this time out.'
Spanish Grand Prix information
The 2008 Spanish Grand Prix will be the 18th time the event has been held at the Circuit de Catalunya. Other venues have been used for the Spanish race, but the flowing 4.655km track just outside Barcelona has been used since 1991. It was originally constructed as part of Barcelona's Olympic programme - the city hosted the 1992 games - with former Minardi driver Luis Perez Sala advising on the track configuration.
The circuit is typical of a high downforce F1 circuit, featuring a mixture of corner speeds and types, but has been neutered somewhat since the last race in 2006 by the addition of a chicane. Now, instead of defined turns 12 and 13, two of the fastest corners on the calendar, there's a new complex that slows the rhythm of the lap.
Nevertheless, the chicane still presents its own challenge with a blind entry and perhaps a better chance to overtake on the following straight. As a result, the circuit is now quite hard on brakes and remains tough on tyres.
The area around the track is notorious for its changeable weather, with rain, high wind and sun all possible within minutes of each other thanks to the circuit's proximity to both the mountains and the Mediterranean Sea. It doesn't put the fans off though, who flock through the gates to cheer on local favourite Fernando Alonso. Superb viewing opportunities and facilities also attract foreign crowds, making for an electric atmosphere whenever the cars take to the track.
-credit: force india