Force India is hopeful of getting both cars comfortably through to the Q2 stage of qualifying for the European Grand Prix in Valencia this weekend, after Adrian Sutil lapped sixth-quickest in both of Friday's free practice sessions.
After making considerable progress over the mid-summer months, Force India suffered a disappointing Hungarian Grand Prix last time out, with neither Sutil nor team-mate Giancarlo Fisichella succeeding in breaking out of Q1 in qualifying and only the latter seeing the chequered flag in the race, in a lowly 14th spot out of 16 finishers.
However, the team has been far from idle over the four-week 'break', with a new aerodynamic upgrade introduced for F1's return to action under the Spanish sun – and yielding instant results.
“It was a good day for us,” underlined Sutil. “Sixth place is looking okay, and I hope we're now comfortably running at a Q2 pace. It's very encouraging and I'm looking forward to getting out again on Saturday. We had a few small niggles on the car so we couldn't run as much as we would have liked in the two sessions, but ultimately the balance was good.
“We did the tyre work as usual, and although it was difficult at the start we understood the behaviour much more by the end of the second session. I don't think it will be a problem in the race, as we used a similar tyre in Bahrain and didn't have any major issues on race day.”
Fisichella, for his part, backed the young German up in eighth spot at the close of play, less than a tenth of a second in arrears after languishing down in a lowly 16th during the morning's FP1 session. Both drivers focussed their principal efforts on evaluations of the updates, establishing a good baseline set-up on the harder tyre and long runs in the afternoon.
“I could set a reasonable lap time at the end of FP2,” reported Fisichella. “I was struggling in the morning with the rear tyre graining, but it looks better on the soft tyres for a single lap. We made a few changes for the afternoon, and I'm confident we are going in the right direction. I can feel the package is a step forward, but it's quite tight for positions at the moment so we'll see in qualifying. I'm feeling quite good about it.”
“A lot of track improvement through the day and generally quite a successful programme for our cars,” summarised the Silverstone-based squad's chief race engineer Dominic Harlow. “This circuit is particularly hard on the rear tyres, and on the slippery and green track meant we had to work at the balance.
“Aside from a couple of minor mechanical issues, the team had no problems getting back into the swing of a grand prix Friday. It's so very tight in the field now we can't make any predictions for qualifying, but we appear to be in the mix and clearly a good grid spot will be our aim.”