Having threatened to stun the Formula 1 fraternity with a fourth place finish in last year's Monaco Grand Prix, Adrian Sutil says he hopes to be a more consistent points challenger in 2009 – with a little help from his new friends at McLaren-Mercedes…
Though Sutil ultimately failed to take the chequered flag any higher than 13th in the final reckoning in 2008 – with only seven finishes to his name from 18 starts and a ten-eight deficit to experienced, three-time grand prix-winning team-mate Giancarlo Fisichella in the qualifying stakes – his season will always be remembered for his incredible performance around the streets of the Principality in May.
From the very back row of the grid, the young German kept his head superbly in tricky conditions that caught out a good many bigger names, to be lying in fourth position just a handful of laps from the close. To see his dreams of a true giant-killing result unceremoniously shattered by the out-of-control Ferrari of defending F1 World Champion Kimi Raikkonen slewing into his Force India machine on the exit of the tunnel was cruel fate indeed – albeit a moment he can look back and smile at now the pain has gone.
“Monaco was for sure my absolute highlight,” he told Paddock Talk
. “We had quite a lot of wet races or rainy conditions in qualifying – but nothing compares to Monaco. Monaco in the rain is a very special circuit. All the other circuits have run-off areas, you can make mistakes, it just gives you a much more confident feeling in the car and everybody's pushing straightaway, but in Monaco you have to go really easy.
“Some people risk more; some of them are really scared. If you risk more and you really put a good lap together, you're at the front. This is a big difference, really.
“When I look back it's still a fantastic memory, it gives me motivation and it makes me very happy. I still have on my computer the picture of the timing screen when I was in fourth position, doing the fastest lap with a 'pink' (ie. fastest) time! I watch it and think that was a good day.
“Kimi apologised afterwards straightaway, and when I see him he always comes up with this story. He's a good guy. After a week I thought, 'okay, you can't change it', but when I look back like this I think I can't believe it. Why? Still now when I really remember back it's incredible, the feeling that comes up, and I don't understand the words sometimes.
“After half a year all the fans remember the situation very clearly. It was Monaco, it was unexpected and then it ended so dramatically – it was a good story for a race. It was also a good thing for my reputation. It was a very good race with a dramatic ending, and I think that was even better for reminding people. For sure next year when I come back to Monaco there will be lots of PR things to do, and there will be many questions!”
That, sadly, would prove to be Sutil's only real chance to shine throughout the campaign, as Force India struggled to keep pace with the development of its rivals – even if he acknowledged the introduction of the new seamless-shift gearbox for the European Grand Prix in late August gave the Silverstone-based minnows a bit of a boost.