The Force India team will return to action at this weekend's European Grand Prix hoping that the work it has been able to carry out in the past few weeks pays dividends with a first points finish on the season.
The Valencia-based event will be the first race in four weeks, and kick-starts a tough run-in to the season finale in Abu Dhabi, which includes both a European and overseas' double header and four flyaway races. However, Force India heads to Spain in buoyant mood following a strong finish to the first half of the season and confidence in new aero upgrades due to be introduced in Valencia.
"We have a major upgrade, which includes a new floor, bargeboard area and front wing," team principal Dr Vijay Mallya confirmed, "We're looking forward to it as we had a very successful aero test with Tonio [Liuzzi] in the week before the summer shutdown and, with this knowledge, I hope we're able to maintain, if not improve, our relative position on track.
"F1 is more competitive than ever now, so we need to keep these upgrades coming through and staying ahead of the others, who no doubt will be improving as well. However, we should definitely be Q2, maybe even the top of Q2 in Valencia and beyond. I'm quite optimistic as we're also working on more upgrades for the final races of the season so, fingers crossed, we should be able to maintain our momentum. There's more to come for Singapore as well so, if we continue on our trajectory now, we're looking quite good, on target with the goals we set at the start of the year."
While Adrian Sutil admits to not particularly liking the Valencia street circuit, veteran team-mate Giancarlo Fisichella heads to Spain with a brighter outlook and, buoyed by his performance at the last race, in Hungary, is looking forward to building on that with the latest additions to the VJM02.
"The Hungarian Grand Prix was quite a tough race, but I was able to have a good, quick middle stint and fight with [Robert] Kubica and [Rubens] Barrichello, so I hope I will be able to do the same, if not more, in Valencia," the Italian commented, "Last year, it was quite a good race for me, one of my best, as we were genuinely fighting for positions.
"I quite like the track although, for sure, it's not the most challenging. But, if you are fighting for position, there are some chances to overtake, which has got to be a positive. We have a new upgrade for this race, the same step as we had at Silverstone, so I hope we can have a good race - and score some points.
"The aim for the rest of the season has to be to keep where we are and score some points. There are some good opportunities coming up in the second part of the year, and some tracks I really like and have gone well on. There's my home race at Monza, and Singapore and Suzuka, which have also been good races for us. Then there's Interlagos, where I got my first win in F1, so there are a lot of reasons to look forward to this next part of the year."
With the team's Silverstone facility closed between 3-16 August in compliance with the gentleman's agreement on cost-cutting, all production, design and car build work stopped, effectively meaning that the VJM02s bound for Valencia were effectively rebuilt before that, with only the team's truck drivers allowed in at the very end of the shutdown to load the trucks and depart for Spain.
Liuzzi conducted only the team's second aero test of the year on 30 July, running the upgrades at Kemble airfield, covering 268km and reporting a productive day.
"The European Grand Prix will be our first race after the summer shutdown, so hopefully the team will return refreshed and ready for a very busy end to the season," chief engineer Dominic Harlow commented, "Before the factory closure, we worked very hard to finalise and test the aero upgrade that will be introduced this race, and we hope it will accelerate the upward trend in our performance."