In December Adrian Sutil had the best possible Christmas present when he was confirmed as a 2007 Spyker race driver. Since then it's been a whirlwind of PR and press activities and visits to the team factory at Silverstone, but the one thing he ...
In December Adrian Sutil had the best possible Christmas present when he was confirmed as a 2007 Spyker race driver. Since then it's been a whirlwind of PR and press activities and visits to the team factory at Silverstone, but the one thing he hasn't done yet is drive the car.
He will get his hands on the team's new machine after the launch on Monday 5 February, and perhaps only then will he really appreciate that he's landed the job he's dreamed about.
"Every day it's getting better and better, and I go closer to the feeling that I know I'm a race driver," he says. "It's quite hard during the winter. Suddenly the news came out, and I read that I was a race driver! Once the testing starts everything will come clear in my head, and I'll really believe it."
However, he is not just biding his time and awaiting the new car. Apart from working on his fitness programme with team physio Alex Leizinger, Adrian has been spending a lot of time at the factory, and has thus become a regular commuter from his home in Munich to Heathrow.
"I have no girlfriend so I have a lot of time! Especially before the season starts it's good to find time to speak to the engineers, and they have more time as well. If you want to change something on the car, that's the time you have to ask."
On Monday this week he was having the second of a series of seat fittings in the cockpit of the new car. It's the first time that he's had a chance to have a real influence on his personal comfort zone while a car is being built. When you're as tall as Adrian is, details are important.
"With the seat, everything has to be 100%. Then you can go to the first test and you know that you did everything you could during the winter. There are many, many steps with the carbon seat. In F3 you do a simple foam seat, and it's quick. Here you need several days to do it properly."
"Especially for me, we have to find all the space we can in the car, because I'm quite tall at 1m83cms. The car was quite tight last year. It was still nice to drive, but it's even more important when you are racing. So this year for sure I want to have everything like I want it. We can change the pedals to how I like them, for example."
It might not have been fitted to the car, but Adrian has already been working with the 2007 spec steering wheel. It's connected to a computer in the design office, so he can run through all the functions and help to optimise the layout of the switches. The change of engine supplier from Toyota to Ferrari has even had an impact on the steering wheel, because the driver has different parameters to deal with.
"We're discussing different modes, the pit limiter, and so on. There are many, many buttons on the wheel, and it can be confusing. It's a good thing to learn it at the factory, because you can't destroy anything on the car! It's fun to do some demo laps. If you're in a race and you have to look at the dashboard and you can't find a button, it's a problem. Everything must be very easy to find."
"You can say, 'I want this,' and it's 'OK, no problem.' You are also so limited in other categories, you get your car and you can't change anything. It's so interesting, and it's really, really nice to help build your own car!"
Adrian has also been busy getting to know the people he will be working with, especially his race engineer Brad Joyce, who has overseen Tiago Monteiro for the past two seasons. It's crucial that the two men form a good relationship and understand how each other likes to work -- and play.
"We've been talking about everything. It's important to get to know each other a little bit better. It's not only a question of racing, but what he likes, what he doesn't like. Then you can work together much easier at the track."
Adrian has also been doing his pre-season homework, studying data from Melbourne and the other early races, and generally immersing himself in everything that is going on at the Spyker base.
"Last year I went to all the areas of the factory, and even had a look at the wind tunnel, just to see everything. I thought that maybe I'd have only one time in my life to be that close to an F1 team, so I wanted to use the opportunity -- I didn't know what my future would be!"
Fortunately he now has as much time to look around as he wants...