Adrian Sutil has joked that getting two cars into the second phase of qualifying for the first time in its short Formula 1 history in Monaco this weekend – indeed the first time either car has made it beyond Q1 in 2009 to-date – 'feels a bit like a pole position' for Force India, as the young German and experienced team-mate Giancarlo Fisichella put a smile on the face of team owner Vijay Mallya ahead of the most prestigious race of them all.
After lapping respectively twelfth (Fisichella) and 14th (Sutil) in FP3 on Saturday morning, the pair – Monaco specialists both, with the former twice finishing up on the podium in the glamorous Principality and the latter being on-course for an entirely unexpected fourth-place finish there twelve months ago before being heartbreakingly removed from contention by the out-of-control Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen almost within sight of the chequered flag – went on to ease through Q1 in 13th and 15th positions, and they would annex exactly the same spots in Q2, for the squad's best-ever double qualifying performance in the top flight.
Fisichella's effort in particular was an impressive one, losing both of his first two runs in Q2 for cutting the chicane before pulling a superb lap out of the bag to leapfrog both Sutil and the Scuderia Toro Rosso of Sébastien Bourdais in the closing moments of the session, going four tenths faster than the sister VJM02. The Roman acknowledged that it had been quite some day.
“I think we can be really satisfied and very happy with the performance today,” reflected the three-time grand prix-winner of his best starting position since last year's Italian Grand Prix at Monza more than eight months ago. “The team worked well and two cars in the top 15 is good, very encouraging.
“We did a good job together, [and though] we still have some work to do the result shows we're going in the right direction. For tomorrow I want to get to the end of the race and let's see – this is Monaco, [so] you never know what can happen.”
“A very good qualifying for us,” agreed Sutil of the finest grid slot of his F1 career, “with two cars into Q2 for the first time ever. It feels a bit like a pole position for us, and it was fun to be able to do it. Everything came together, the team did a good job in the garage and I felt my lap was strong. It was difficult to do, with the traffic and then the stoppages, but it was a good run for us.
“Tomorrow I hope we will be able to fight in the midfield and try to get ahead of some people. The start could be a bit tricky, as it always is here, but I feel all set for tomorrow. We are really motivated now and are hoping for a good race.”
Indeed, after out-qualifying on merit both BMW-Saubers and both Toyotas around the narrow, tortuous streets of Monte Carlo, Force India has every right to be proud of its showing – and having already suffered its fair share of bad luck in 2009 with Sutil being deprived a strong points finish when he aquaplaned off the circuit just a handful of laps from the end of the Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona, few teams deserve a change of fortune more than the plucky Silverstone minnows.
“A good feeling to have opened our account for Q2 this season with both cars here in Monaco,” affirmed chief race engineer Dominic Harlow. “The whole team has worked very hard for this event both at the factory and the circuit, and together with calm performances from the drivers in a hectic session we have shown some genuine performance. Q2 itself was tougher as the circuit improvement slowed, but points are realistically possible from where we will start tomorrow and we'll be doing our best to make this opportunity stick.”