Off the back of its stand-out performance in Monaco last time out, Force India has developed into a 'solid midfield contender' in Formula 1, reckon its drivers – and one that is targeting Williams and Scuderia Toro Rosso in the Turkish Grand Prix in Istanbul this weekend.
After both Giancarlo Fisichella and Adrian Sutil made it through to the Q2 phase of qualifying for the first time in the small Silverstone-based squad's brief history in the top flight around the narrow, tortuous streets of the glamorous Principality, the Italian went on to cross the finish line a superb ninth in the race, doggedly chasing down the STR of Sébastien Bourdais throughout and coming within less than two seconds of the final point at the close – arguably FIF1's finest showing in the sport to-date.
With its tail up from that encouraging form, the team has revised aspirations for what it can achieve around the undulating, technically challenging and physically demanding Istanbul Park Circuit close to the Bosphorous Strait – a track around which Fisichella has twice finished inside the top six in four previous starts, but where he failed to go beyond the opening lap this time last year after leaving his braking too late into the first corner and clattering into the back of the Williams of Kazuki Nakajima, somewhat belying his wealth of experience at the highest level.
“The whole weekend was actually very good,” the 36-year-old reflected of Monte Carlo. “We always hoped we'd have a good showing there as we had some developments and I have had some very good results at the track before. Getting into Q2 was a big achievement and, as a team, to get two cars through was even better.
“In the race I felt good; I could push and put pressure on Bourdais. Perhaps at another track I could have found a way past, but it was too tight in Monaco. Still, we can be happy with ninth – it's our best result on-track so far this year.
“Looking back at Monaco, I would say we have more-or-less the same speed as Toro Rosso and Williams. It was a surprise to see BMW and Toyota on the back row and racing behind us, but they are strong teams with a lot of resources and you wouldn't count them out for long.
“I quite enjoy Turkey. It's a very physical track, you get lots of adrenaline when you drive there with the gradient changes and I have had some good results, including a fourth in 2005. We don't have a lot of new development coming through for this race, though, so it is going to be a tough one but once again we need to keep pushing. I'd love to get into Q2 again, but we will know more about where we stand after Friday.”
Sutil, conversely, has yet to finish inside the points in Istanbul, coming home 21st on his maiden appearance there in 2007 and 16th last year, but the young German was running up in an outstanding sixth place – ahead of defending F1 World Champion and former F3 Euroseries team-mate Lewis Hamilton, no less – in the closing stages of the rain-lashed Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai seven weeks ago, before agonisingly aquaplaning off the track and into retirement against the unforgiving circuit barriers with barely a handful of laps remaining.
The 26-year-old would dearly love to make amends this weekend – and with Force India boasting a strong record of eleven finishes from 12 starts thus far in 2009, bettered only by world championship leaders Brawn GP, Sutil is well aware that seeing the chequered flag is always the primary objective.