Force India launched its 2010 car, the VJM03, on Tuesday and Vitantonio Liuzzi took it to the track for the first time today. He will drive again tomorrow, with Adrian Sutil taking over for Friday and Saturday and reserve driver Paul di Resta due to drive on Feb. 17.
The team drivers offered their thoughts on the VJM03 and their prospects for 2010, as well as design director Mark Smith and CEO Otmar Szafnauer.
Q. Adrian, last year was a breakthrough for Force India. What would you say the turning point was?
Adrian Sutil: The turning point in 2009 was definitely Belgium. We'd already done some good updates during the season – like at Silverstone – but the biggest one was Belgium, and Monza especially for me.
We didn't expect such a change – we suddenly raced for the victory. But it was one of those circuits that suited us really well and everything came together. But also the last few races of the season were quite good and in qualifying we were quite successful. So, that was the turning point, and now it's important to do a good season.
Q. What do you need to do to build on 2009?
AS: The most important thing is to have a consistent performance throughout the year. We started development late last year with a late car launch and little testing, so this year it's a much better situation because we had a good winter of work and we could develop our car much better than in previous years.
That's why I'm hoping for a good start. My personal aim, and that of the team, is to be competitive for the first race and keep that up, and carry it through the season.
Q. So, you want to maintain form, or do something more spectacular?
AS: For sure I want to be where we ended up last year. Close to the podium would be amazing. But I think top 10, points hopefully every race, would be a good step for us. At the moment, it's too early to say anything clear because I don't know the car's performance – we had our first day today and it was rainy conditions – but everything around looks really promising. I have the best feeling I've had so far before a season.
Q. Tonio, you tested the car today. What are your first impressions?
Vitantonio Liuzzi: It was definitely a good beginning. Unfortunately, we did just two laps in dry conditions when we started the morning. But afterward, for a full wet day, we had a good result – we did more than 70 laps, the car felt really reliable, no big issues, and the weather helped with a few developments around the car with cooling and things like this. Now we are looking forward to tomorrow and hopefully it will be a better day.
Q. How does it feel to be a race driver again?
VL: For sure I suffered when I was in the test seat because I had already done two years of racing, so it has been difficult, but it made me more mature for this comeback. I did five races last year and now I think I'm ready for a strong 2010 together with Force India. We are all looking forward to this season.
Q. What's the program for testing?
VL: Definitely as much mileage as we can for this new VJM03, to understand more about this new wheelbase, and the weight of the car with different fuel. We will have a pretty interesting program for tomorrow and the next days. I think it will be an intense three weeks before Bahrain, but we are pushing, as we have for the last 12 months.
Q. What are your aims for 2010?
VL: As Adrian said, we are aiming to have a competitive car that can finish in the points at every race. That's our target for sure. If we can get more, like happened on a couple of occasions last year, that's more than welcome. But we want to get consistent results, consistency as a team in the championship, and development as good as we did in the past. I think we have a strong combination for 2010 and I think we have got the right car to do it.