Indian Grand Prix is all set to thrill Indians fans once again this weekend. Just before the race, Adrian Sutil, driver of the sole Indian Formula One team – Sahara Force India, in a tete-a-tete with Zee Media correspondent Chaitan Papnai talked about the Constructors’ Championship, sudden dip in team’s performance, controversial tyre suppliers Pirelli and more on the Indian GP.
Excerpts from the interview:
After getting the best start in the first seven races of the on-going season, Team’s performance suddenly dipped, what went wrong with the car?
It was a very good start for me after a year’s break. So it was nice in Australia. We were competing for great position. And the car was just going so well. We were racing at a different level altogether. In the first half of the season, we had really good results. Monaco GP was a great one for me, then Silverstone was just fantastic, it was almost a podium finish for me. But then after the tyre-change in the mid-season, we lost our performance. About where we are standing at the moment, I am still happy, this is the way things go on in Formula One. We stopped our development very early in this season, and have been concentrating on the next year’s car. So, we hope to have a good car next season to gain those points that we lost here, in the last few races.
How difficult a job is it for the sole tyre suppliers Pirelli, who even changed tyres mid-season?
It’s been a difficult challenge for Pirelli. First they were asked to make such tyres and that’s what they did. Then everyone was criticizing them. At the moment it seems entertainment is more important. And it’s a fact that driving in the races is not always satisfying. I guess since the inception of Pirelli, the races have become more exciting and entertaining. You even have a chance now to finish at the podium even if you started last from the grid. Everything is possible, so it has its negatives and positives. Still for Pirelli, it was a big challenge to build such tyres that are not very vulnerable, deliver a good performance, make the race more interesting, and most importantly no safety problem that they had in the middle of the season.
It was a year break for you before you joined back Sahara Force India this season, how was the sabbatical and how difficult it was for you to make a comeback?
To be honest it was a much needed break for me, which was quite refreshing. I spent good time with people I haven’t met since ages. But still by the end of that season, I felt I want to go back to the sport and I am back in a team. Once again push hard, improve my and the team’s performance -- in a way improving my career. It took me a little while to comeback of course. But one season off doesn’t hurt you much. In fact I surprised myself with the speed that I generated when I joined the team.
In the latter half of the season first McLaren went ahead of SFI in the Constructors’ Championship and now Sauber is catching up fast. What’s your take on that?
We had done well in the beginning and now they are doing well. Nico Hulkenberg is undoubtedly a good driver, but at the moment it’s just that their car is performing better. And you need a good car to earn points. We had a great start to the season, we score our points in the beginning, they are scoring their points in the end, let us see who will be in the front by the end of the last race. We are currently 17 points ahead and that’s a comfortable lead. Still I am sure we can improve our performance in the remaining races. We can score a point or two or may be more in the upcoming races. We are sixth and we want to keep this position. We will try to defend our spot.
Indian Grand Prix is a home race for your team, but do you think it’s realistic to score some points here?
Yes. It is a realistic target. We could have scored a couple of points in the last race as well. So, this time we will try and perform well in the qualifying to start off the race from a good grid position.
Indian GP won’t be the part of next year’s F1 calendar and 2015 is still under doubt. Do you think it’s a shame?
It’s a shame of course. I thought we had a longer future here. But at the moment, next year is just canceled. I hope it will comeback in 2015. It would be nice. As a team we want to have this GP. We need it, as we get big support in India. But right now we are just concentrating on this coming GP.
Have you confirmed your ticket in SFI, for the next season?
We are looking into it. We will let you know as soon as it will finalize. I have made my decision, I am happy to drive one more year for Force India, but nothing is confirmed yet.
There are talks about the 22 races in the next season. Are you comfortable with it?
Right...that’s a plan. But I don’t think it will happen. I believe 18 races in a season are just fine. 20 races in a season are enough. But 22 are a bit too much. Now that is my opinion. Though I can handle 22, no problem (laughs).
Is SFI, still chasing McLaren for the fifth spot?
We are trying to chase McLaren, but it’s not that realistic. The gap is a bit too much. So, at the moment we are focusing on sixth position. And will try our level best to secure this spot and remain ahead of Sauber.
This is your second year in India, what all you have to say about the country and its culture?
‘Namaste’ is the only Indian word I have learned so far. I have seen a few things here and would like to visit a bit more places, especially Taj Mahal. This country has an interesting culture. A very different place to what we are used to in Europe.