Force India previews F1 finale
The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, from 30 October - 1 November, will be the finale of the 2009 FIA Formula One World Championship. A new venue on the calendar, it's one of the most talked about events of recent years on account of the sheer scale of the work involved in constructing the state-of-the-art Yas Marina circuit.
Over the course of just a few years, organizers have built a 25km sq man-made island known as Yas Island with 17km sq of luxury apartments, hotels, retail parks, theme parks and, of course, the circuit: a Tilke-designed, high-speed run through the island's marina district. The track itself is a feat of engineering, with unique facilities including a pass through a hotel lobby, underground pit lane exit and a straight running parallel to an airplane landing strip.
With a straight of almost 1km and three successive quick corners from turns two to four, average speeds are expected to be similar to Valencia, thus demanding a medium to low downforce configuration. As the Force India F1 Team has been competitive in these conditions before, the team is expecting is good showing in Abu Dhabi to end the season on a high.
Dr Vijay Mallya, chairman and team principal
It's the final race of the year now, has this season matched with your expectations?
At the start of the year, we wanted points but I also wanted to show a genuine improvement in every area of the company. We have learned from the mistakes of last season and have really tightened up processes, procedures and working practices, which has ultimately helped us to score points and be proud of our achievements. I would say this year has even exceeded our expectations as we have secured a podium, pole and fastest lap. We can be really proud of this. All the same we have had opportunities we haven't been able to make the most of, for example Interlagos, Suzuka and Monza. This slightly mutes the satisfaction, but it does give a lot of cause for optimism - if we can get into a similar position next year and follow through all the chances we could be solid midfield in both championships.
What will your aims be for the final race of the year?
Brazil was a missed opportunity to score points. Adrian was in a prime position to get some decent points, perhaps even a podium, but it was not to be. But the Abu Dhabi aero configuration is roughly similar to Brazil and Valencia, and even though we can't expect rain, we can expect a reasonable level of performance in qualifying that should put us in a good position for the race. We could technically move up a position in the championship as we're just 13 points behind Renault, but it will be tough so we need to consolidate what we have already. Toro Rosso have been looking very strong in recent races so it's a matter of personal pride to keep them behind. Ninth place in the championship is one position higher than last year and we need that improvement to validate all the progress we've made this year.
Abu Dhabi is a new venue on the calendar; what are your thoughts on the event?
Having new events on the calendar certainly keeps the series fresh and opens the sport out to new markets. I hear the venue is absolutely fantastic as well, so it will set new standards for Formula One. This too is very important, for the sport to keep evolving and looking at making improvements to track facilities, spectator opportunities and the whole 'experience' of going to a race. For Force India for sure it will be an extra special event as there is a large number of ex-pat Indians, which always gives us that little more of a push.
Adrian Sutil (car 20, VJM02/01)
We are going to a new venue this week. How do you prepare for new events?
The first step is always to look at the track map and the conditions you can expect at the event. Is there anything that looks different or challenging in the corners, is there something that you need to prepare for physically? I'll speak to my engineers about what they expect in terms of set-up and then the next step is to put it all together in the simulator. This gives a head start as you can make a basic set-up from this and use as a starting point in practice. You also know what to expect when you get on track.
What are your impressions of Yas Marina and Abu Dhabi?
Yas Marina looks like it will be a great facility - very luxurious and a great working environment for the team. However I don't think the track will be massively challenging. It has a long straight, but there are a lot of second gear corners as well, which might hurt us a little bit. The good thing is everyone is starting from the same platform, so it will be a little bit of a surprise when we arrive.
Do you think you can repeat your Brazil qualifying performance?
Saturday was a good day for us in Brazil but I would have been happier to get that result in the race. I was hoping a lot for that, so it's a bit disappointing. But I'm happy because at least something worked out during the weekend, we showed our performance really well in qualifying. We have to take that and carry it to the next race. Whether we can repeat in Abu Dhabi we will have to see, but it's a relatively low downforce track and we have performed well in these conditions before so I am optimistic.
Tonio Liuzzi (car 21, VJM02/04)
The last race in Brazil was your best finish for the team since your Monza debut. How was the weekend?
The result was not too bad but obviously the race was compromised when we had to start from the back after the accident in qualifying. We had a good pace in the rain and I think we could have started from the front row as Adrian showed. Starting that far behind in the dry of Sunday was always going to be tough but I pushed hard and could again fight with the Ferrari and Toro Rosso. We were hoping for some rain in the middle of the race but it didn't come, so we had to accept that it would be difficult to make up any more places. All this considered, the result was OK although we didn't score any points, which is always the aim.
Tonio, you're now approaching the end of the season. You made your Force India race debut in Italy and have four races under your belt now. What are your thoughts on the season so far?
Getting back into the car in race trim had always been my aim for 2010 and it came earlier than expected! Of course it wasn't the best way to go racing again, but at least we know Felipe is OK now. It's been a big challenge to get back into the rhythm of driving, particularly at circuits I don't know, such as Singapore. I've also had a bit of bad luck, such as qualifying in Suzuka [where gearbox problems limited running] and Brazil with the accident in Q2, but I've always pushed as hard as I could. What we have shown is that when the car is performing well, as it was in Monza, we can be very quick. I'll keep pushing until the end and am still optimistic of scoring my first points for Force India in Abu Dhabi.
Based on this, what will be your strategy going into the final race of the year?
We really want points - it's important for the team and for myself. We'll be giving 100% until the end, in practice, qualifying and the race. We have done some laps of Yas Marina in the simulator and it looks like a great facility. The track seems very interesting and could suit the VJM02 very well as there are a few long straights and a tricky middle section. It's also good to visit new venues so I'm looking forward to this race.
Force India Abu Dhabi Grand Prix points of note:
Adrian Sutil and Tonio Liuzzi have been pushing hard in the simulator to be as prepared as possible ahead of the race. Each driver has completed more than two race distances apiece.
Tonio's 11th place in Brazil was his best race finish for Force India this season. The Italian did not finish in Monza and was 14th in both Singapore and Japan.
Adrian and Tonio have both visited Abu Dhabi on previous occasions. Adrian was present at the launch of the race in 2007 and Tonio has visited a few years back. Dr Vijay Mallya is a regular visitor to the UAE and has an apartment in Dubai.
The Abu Dhabi GP is the closest to the team's homeland of India. With approximately 25% of Abu Dhabi's population Indian ex-pats, it's also a big race for fans.
With the race taking place in twilight hours (sunset is scheduled at 1753 on race day), the team's schedule will change to coincide with this. Thursday will be a 'normal' working day, but leave and meal times will shift +3 hours on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Temperatures are expected to be cooler during this time.
Abu Dhabi Grand Prix: View from the pit wall with Force India's chief engineer, Dominic Harlow:
Abu Dhabi will be one of the most eagerly awaited new race debuts in some time. The track and facilities are immense and a very interesting weekend is in store. We expect it to be quite hot obviously, but the twilight timing to the sessions will mean track surface temperatures will not be as high as they could be.
The lap includes a very long straight, over 1km, with three high energy brakings and predominantly slow, second or third gear, quite technical corners with a surprising amount of gradient change.
On the reliability side cooling will be the main focus, and for performance finding the right downforce level and understanding the factors that will dictate race strategy. It looks like being a great season finale and we'll be pushing as hard as ever to finish with some more points.