Adrian Sutil confessed to being 'one of F1's happiest guys' after stunning paddock observers in placing his Force India seventh on the starting grid in front of his home fans at the Nürburgring today – now, he acknowledges, his aim is to become the
happiest guy by scoring the team's first points 24 hours later.
The Starnberg native has always been something of a wet-weather maestro, registering his only points finish to-date in the torrential downpour that engulfed the 2007 Japanese Grand Prix at Fuji, and storming to the quickest time in free practice earlier the same year – his rookie campaign in the top flight – around the tortuous and challenging streets of Monaco, on both occasions for Force India's predecessor Spyker. His Nürburgring performance, though, arguably counts as the 26-year-old's finest hour yet.
Narrowly making his way into Q2 with 14th spot in the initial phase of qualifying around the famously mercurial Eifel Mountains circuit, as the weather degenerated and conditions became ever-more difficult to accurately call, Sutil and FIF1 never put a foot out of place.
An early changeover to slick tyres in Q2 earned the young German an outstanding third position, and a similar gamble – again ahead of the game – in Q3 saw him seal seventh at the close, ahead of such illustrious names as Ferrari pairing Felipe Massa and Kimi Raikkonen, Renault's former double world champion Fernando Alonso, BMW-Sauber duo Nick Heidfeld and Robert Kubica and the Williams' of Kazuki Nakajima and Nico Rosberg amongst others. What's more, he did so despite carrying a heavier fuel load than any of his rivals inside the top ten to-boot.
It was a sublime showing, and one that marked not only the Silverstone-based squad's maiden Q3 appearance and finest qualifying performance in 27 outings in F1, but also Sutil's best-ever and the highest for the ex-Spyker/Midland/Jordan concern since Hungary in 2002, when Giancarlo Fisichella lined up fifth. Though the experienced Italian had no such luck this time – missing the Q1 cut by just under three tenths of a second after finding his efforts hampered by traffic – that ultimately did little to detract from a historic day for the sport's favourite minnows.
“I'm really happy,” enthused Sutil afterwards, “for sure one of F1's happiest guys today! It's my home race and my best qualifying position so far in F1, so it was a great qualifying for us. It was very tricky with the weather, but our decisions were very good and on-time, particularly in Q2 with the rain. We took a risk on dry tyres and we did it a lap earlier than all the others and got the third-fastest time.
“Finally, even with the fuel on-board, Q3 went really well and we got into seventh. I am very happy for everyone in the team. We've worked really hard in the last months. Now we just have to score some points!”
“First of all, I am very pleased for the team and for Adrian to have had such a great qualifying,” added Fisichella. “It was an incredible result, and hopefully we'll be able to have a good race tomorrow. For me it was a bit disappointing. We went out early in the first session, but unfortunately I got caught in traffic on both of my fastest laps. It was a real shame as with the weather conditions I think we could have done really well, but it could be mixed weather tomorrow so you never know what's possible.”
Having entered the weekend aiming to build on the encouraging form witnessed last time out at Silverstone with another Q2 appearance, team chairman Vijay Mallya admitted that he had never even dared dream about getting into Q3 – but like Sutil, the Kingfisher Airlines billionaire affirmed that points are now overdue, after Force India arguably deserved to score in China, Monaco and Britain already this year only to come away cruelly empty-handed on each occasion.