Q&A with Vijay Mallya Force India followed Renault in becoming the second team to get a prototype double diffuser onto the VJM02 for the Bahrain GP, thus beating the likes of Ferrari, McLaren, BMW and Red Bull in the development race.
The cars clearly found pace, although Adrian Sutil was delayed after a push from Kazuki Nakajima and Giancarlo Fisichella was given a nudge by Felipe Massa. We asked Dr Vijay Mallya for his thoughts on the Bahrain weekend, and the return to Europe.
Q: Both drivers had strong races in Bahrain, although both were also hit by other cars – a Ferrari in Giancarlo’s case. What are your thoughts on that?
‘That’s racing, I wouldn’t complain about it! Both drivers were running up in 10th position at one point and then after the pit stops we dropped down. I’m satisfied that we were racing, and we were racing some of the best teams in the business. We beat the BMWs, which is not something I could have predicted with any degree of certainty last year!’
Q: After Adrian’s good race in the rain in China was it encouraging to see the car become more competitive in the dry in Bahrain? ‘Absolutely. I’ve never been someone who subscribes to the theory that something unusual must happen for us to be competitive. Late last year we made a lot of changes to the team in the structure and the management, we signed up with McLaren Mercedes and then we designed and built this car in a record period of 120 days. That entire effort was not to be the minnows at the back, hoping for something unusual to happen. It was to really be racing competitively, albeit in midfield. I’ve always said that this year’s goal would be racing midfield, and hopefully scoring points. I think we’re doing just that.’
Q: Were you pleased to see the new diffuser give instant results? ‘We’ve shown we can react quickly. I think we can walk down the paddock with our heads held high, without being apologetic for anything. We’re a small team, we have limited resources, and within what we have I think we have a highly motivated bunch of guys who are now committed, professional and all charged up. I think we’re showing to the world that we can race, and race on a limited budget.’
Q: What else do you have in the pipeline? ‘We have another update coming in Barcelona, more particularly an improved version of this interim diffuser, and some further aero upgrades. I’m not naive enough to believe that other teams aren’t improving, I’m sure everybody is going hammer and tongs trying to find better performance. But we’re there and we’re racing, and it’s so competitive. In the midfield everything is separated by hundredths now, and to be in the hunt is quite an impressive achievement.’
Q: Is the improvement in reliability since last year the most significant achievement? ‘That is the dividend from the McLaren Mercedes partnership that we decided on. And that’s a big thing because I wouldn’t like to be quick and into Q2 and Q3 and then stop half way through the race. The reliability having been sorted out, particularly under very tough conditions like Bahrain, means we can rest our minds on that and focus on performance improvement.’
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