After surprising showings in each of the last two years, Force India's Adrian Sutil has admitted that hopes that good things come in threes when he arrives in Monaco for Formula One's blue riband event this week.
Having paced the wet free practice session in his first season as an F1 driver with Spyker in 2007, the German then appeared on course for a rare points finish with Vijay Mallya's team last year, before being bumped out of fourth place by an errant Kimi Raikkonen in the closing stages. Now, despite Force India still occupying a place at the lower end of the F1 pecking order, Sutil is hoping that he gets another chance to shine.
"It's always nice to go back to Monaco, because it's one of my favourite circuits - I like the atmosphere and the whole weekend," he admitted, "It's very special, and it's a nice circuit with good memories for me. I've had two good years in a row, and hopefully I'll have another one now, although it's always up to the conditions to a certain extent."
Last year's grand prix was a particularly memorable one for the Force India team, as Giancarlo Fisichella celebrated his 200th race start and Sutil raced from the back of the grid to fourth thanks to a canny strategy and faultless performance behind the wheel. Then, in full view of the television cameras, the German's hope of claiming Force India's first points were dramatically dashed just four laps from the chequered flag when Raikkonen rear-ended the VJM01 exiting the circuit's famous tunnel.
"It was like a dream - or a nightmare actually," Sutil reflected, "You think you're going to wake up and nothing's happened. It sounds dramatic, but that's how it really was.
"Every lap, I passed the pit I saw one position on my pit board and thought it was going well. When I was up in the points, I thought 'wow, this is my race!' and, when I was in fourth position, I was doing fastest laps at that stage in the race - it was unbelievable. Everything came together, we were on a really good strategy, and it was perfect. When it dried, it was the right time to change onto slick tyres. Everything was 100 per cent. Then there was the shock for me and all the team."
The 2009-spec Force India entry is potentially the best F1 machine that Sutil has got his hands on, and the team appears ahead of the game in some areas of development, notably getting an interim 'double decker' diffuser onto the VJM02 ahead of some of its bigger rivals, but the German also admits to having a personal affinity with the streets of the Principality.
"I just like the circuit layout and, since F3 times, I've been fast there," he pointed out, albeit skating over the fact that he remains the F3 lap record holder from a season when he was Lewis Hamilton's team-mate.
"It's very narrow, so you have to risk quite a lot to be fast and you have to go very close to the wall all the time. You have to know the circuit, the different cambers and the tricky areas where you have to be really precise. You can go there and make an impression with a slower car as the driver can have more input, so your motivation is right up. Maybe that's why everything comes together.