Having stunned seasoned Formula 1 observers with its pace in the hands of Belgian Grand Prix runner-up Giancarlo Fisichella at Spa-Francorchamps, Force India can now shine again in the Italian Grand Prix at Monza in just under a fortnight's time, contends chairman and team principal Vijay Mallya.
Having gone 29 races without troubling the scorers at the highest level, the Silverstone-based squad broke its points duck in style in the Ardennes, as Fisichella shocked the paddock with pole position and then went on to track winner Kimi Raikkonen all the way to the chequered flag on race day.
Indeed, the experienced Italian might well have gone even better had it not been for an early safety car period to allow for the opening lap mêlée
to be cleared up – allowing Raikkonen to get a run at Fisichella at the re-start and simply drive by on the run down to Les Combes by dint of pressing his KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems) power boost button. From there on in, though, the plucky Roman refused to let the Ferrari get away from him – and Mallya reckons the high-speed straights of Monza could witness more of the same.
“Why not?” mused the Kingfisher Airlines billionaire in an interview with Reuters
. “We know that the car is quick – blindingly quick I would say. The sector times show it, and I think the Monza track will suit us.”
Indeed, as the fastest circuit on the annual F1 calendar, Monza should play to the strengths of the Mercedes-Benz engine that powers Force India's VJM02 challenger – and Brawn GP's world championship leader Jenson Button reckons the traditional back-of-the-grid minnows could just be set for another bumper weekend.
“It's going to be more the McLarens and the Force Indias, because they are good on low downforce,” the British star opined, when asked who is likely to occupy the leading spots in Italy. “Kimi will also be quick, and I don't know who else is going to be in the other Ferrari.”
According to the paddock rumour mill, it could be Fisichella, following Luca Badoer's second distinctly underwhelming performance in quick succession at Spa. That would likely lead to countryman Vitantonio Liuzzi being promoted from his habitual reserve role into the cockpit of the #21 car alongside Adrian Sutil at Monza – but three-time grand prix-winner Fisichella insists that he remains firmly focussed on the job in-hand.
“Our speed on the straight is usually very good,” pointed out the 36-year-old, “and Monza is a very high-speed circuit. Obviously we will have a proper package for Monza, and it looks very promising. It looks very good.
“I'm not saying that we will repeat a result like [at Spa], which would be fantastic, but obviously getting into the top ten and scoring points would be another fantastic result.”