Q&A with Adrian Sutil
Q: You had a long wait to get your hands on the VJM02. What were your first impressions?
Adrian Sutil: I'm quite happy because we could do some good testing in Jerez. At first we had a few problems with the car, but then we sorted it out and could do some good running. It was the first proper time on circuit, so we still need time to understand everything but the overall feeling was very good, definitely.
Q: You've had a strong engine in the past, but now you have a McLaren gearbox as well as the Mercedes engine. How encouraging is that?
AS: I think we did the best possible thing during the winter with this new co-operation. It was a great deal and I think very positive for the future. It's a World Champion team, we can learn from them. We can really focus and concentrate on areas that really enhance performance, like aerodynamic development.
Q: Does the gearbox actually feel better, or is it just different?
AS: It's quite similar. Our gearbox last year was quite good, so there was not such a big change but I think from a reliability point of view the McLaren gearbox will be much better.
Q: Have you done any running with KERS?
AS: No. We won't be using it for the first races, so we didn't test it in Jerez - we just concentrated on the main things. It's not a real disadvantage to do the first races without it as we can see some of the other teams have had issues. At least you know what you have and you just run without KERS. There could be some reliability issues if you don't fully understand it and then run it.
Q: Have you tried the adjustable front flap yet?
AS: Not yet, we are really at the beginning right now. We haven't tried the new functions, but we will test it in Barcelona. It's not such a big thing, because it's just pushing a button twice a lap in the end!
Q: Will it be an interesting option to play with?
AS: It will be. I think it makes sense to have it for the races. Sometimes you need to adjust your front wing, and normally you do it in the pitlane during a pit stop. Now you can do it on the circuit, so it's much better, it could save some time in the stops.
Q: How did you find the slick tires?
AS: The car feels very different altogether. Aero wise it's completely different, and then there are the slicks as well. We have much more front grip, and I'm happy that we have a much more positive front end now. There's much less understeer than last year, which was our main problem all the time. That's also why my feeling was quite good at the first test. It was one of the main things where I really thought we needed to find a solution, and we have.
Q: You had problems with graining in Jerez. How serious was that?
AS: This was quite a big issue. I expected a few problems with the tires, but the rear graining is so big at the moment it's really difficult to handle. In the end it needs time, and also I think the track conditions were not the best for this kind of compound. As we saw last year in winter testing we had problems with the tires, but once we went to the races, it was actually much better.
Q: Have you run any laps in the rain yet?
AS: No, I didn't drive in the rain. I was lucky to have two dry days. Giancarlo did a little wet running, which was quite good as well.
Q: You didn't drive at all for over two months. How was your winter?
AS: I had a lot of time at home and it was nice to have more than a couple of weeks in the same place! So I saw lots of friends. Then I started training quite early as well, losing some weight for sure.
Q: You are one of the taller drivers, so is that a big issue?
AS: Yes it is. It's hard for me to lose some kilos, but I lost a little bit, and I'm happy about that. It was not such a problem. During Christmas normally you eat a little bit more, and that's why I started my training quite early, before Christmas!
Q: It's your third season with the team. How important is this year for you?
AS: Every year has been important, but now maybe there is a chance to do well, and if there is one I have to take it to really show my maximum performance. It's one of the most important seasons in my career, because I can show something and I want to make sure I'm perfectly prepared. I'm doing quite a lot right now to try and improve myself even more. But in the end if the car is fast, then the season can be very important, and you can show quite a lot.
Q: You seem fairly positive, but do you think the team really can make a big enough step?
AS: Everything is possible. I just know the field is very close together, even closer than last year. If in Melbourne all the cars are close together then the chances are higher to get off the back row. Last year it was not easy because the gap was half a second to a second, and it didn't matter if some cars had problems in qualifying, we were always on the last row.
But that's not how we are thinking right now, we are thinking more about being in the midfield and hopefully running there because we are strong. That's our aim. Let's see in Melbourne - as usual with the testing in the winter it's hard to predict something.
Q: Are the first few races all about getting to the finish and perhaps getting some points?
AS: I think so. Reliability is very important at the beginning, as we saw last year. There were a couple of chances that we missed because of reliability problems, especially the first race in Melbourne. There were lots of incidents, and also this year I think there's a possibility for quite a chaotic race. Hopefully our car will be reliable and we can finish most of the races.
Q: Do you think we could see a lot of pit stops for new noses on the first lap?
AS: Absolutely! That's why it can be chaotic. The front wing is very big and you have to get used to it a little bit when you are fighting for positions and get really close. It's quite a big change...