Giancarlo Fisichella and Adrian Sutil both gave Force India reason for cheer during opening practice for this weekend's German Grand Prix at the Nürburgring, with the former lapping inside the top six in the morning and the latter going on to match that feat in the afternoon.
Fisichella's fifth position in FP1 was just seven tenths shy of the quickest of the session – set by Red Bull Racing's Mark Webber – though the experienced Italian blotted his copybook a touch later on in going off in sector two and damaging the front of his car in the impact as the tricky weather conditions momentarily caught him out.
Sutil, for his part, suffered mechanical woes in the morning that brought his session to a premature close only six laps in, but the young German rebounded impressively to snatch sixth spot both in FP2 and overall, just over four tenths shy of pace-setting former F3 Euroseries team-mate Lewis Hamilton in the McLaren-Mercedes. Both FIF1 drivers spent time conducting mandatory system checks and verification of the aero configuration over long and short runs, in addition to tyre comparisons.
“I think it was about right for the team today,” reported Fisichella, “with both drivers in the top six in either session. The first session for me was quite good with a promising position, but it was quite disappointing in the afternoon; I caught a kerb that was still wet and just spun into the barriers. I think I could have done well in the second session, but it looks encouraging for tomorrow for another Q2.”
“It was a good Friday for us that showed some real improvement from previous weekends,” concurred Sutil. “Sixth was a good effort from the team, and it felt quite good. I think it will be difficult to get into the top ten tomorrow, but I do feel a good Q2 performance would be realistic.
“Today started off quite difficult when I had a problem in the morning and couldn't get much running in, and in the afternoon I also had a small issue with the steering that took a little while to get sorted. We could test a few items, though, including the range of tyres here. It's difficult to say at the moment about their performance, as it's good at the beginning of the run and then goes a little off in the end, so we will see.
“It's also very difficult to judge the weather conditions – it's been typical Eifel weather! It changes every hour, going from very cold to sunshine. As such it's difficult for the hard tyres to warm up, but we'll play with the strategy tomorrow to try and make it work for us.”
The small Silverstone-based squad's finest Friday showing of its brief history in the top flight comes only three weeks on from a similarly strong performance by Fisichella in the British Grand Prix, literally just across the road from its factory. On three occasions now this season, either he or Sutil have come close to troubling the points-scorers – and chief race engineer Dominic Harlow hopes that 'nearly-but-not-quite' statistic may be turned on its head in Germany.
“A very cold day here with a constant shower risk and both sessions declared wet, which is quite unusual in July,” he acknowledged. “The car balance was good, but the grip on the track was quite low in general. Adrian suffered a couple of unrelated mechanical issues disrupting both sessions, but recovered well to carry out some thorough tyre evaluation.
“Giancarlo had a good FP1 and also showed that the car has some good potential this weekend. Unfortunately he was on-track just as a shower wet the track and he had a spin at T10-11. We will now prepare for whatever the Eifel weather can throw at us over the coming weekend!”