Adrian Sutil has bemoaned the lack of 'challenge' and 'thrill' presented by the Valencia Street Circuit – scene of this weekend's European Grand Prix – and whilst not predicting a 'classic' race around the Spanish city's harbourside streets, the German does forecast another competitive performance from Force India F1.
The Silverstone-based squad's form last time out in the Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal was in fact rather better than the eventual ninth and tenth places achieved by Vitantonio Liuzzi and Sutil suggested – as both drivers were delayed by incidents that prevented what would likely have been a substantially greater haul of points from respectively fifth and ninth on the starting grid.
“It was a tough race for us, but quite interesting,” the Starnberg native reflected. “There were lots of battles, and managing the tyres was a particular key point in doing well. At the start I was racing very hard, and I was in the top six until I got the puncture when racing with [Robert] Kubica. It was unlucky, as I had to do a whole lap with the tyre basically flat and I dropped back.
“Still, when I got back-to-speed I could enjoy some good racing with a lot of fights, and I found it quite easy to overtake, which shows we're still very competitive. I enjoyed it, and although just one point doesn't seem to represent how well we did and our overall level of competitiveness, we can still be relatively pleased with the weekend's performance.”
Indeed, the outcome consolidated FIF1's lonely sixth spot in the 2010 constructors' standings, but it is clear that the goal is to take the fight to those ahead – with Renault being the closest target. Although he might confess to not being a great fan of the Valencia Street Circuit – around which he finished tenth last year – the 27-year-old is optimistic that it will at least confirm Force India's Canadian improvement.
“Valencia is not my favourite circuit, as there's not so much of a challenge for the driver,” he candidly conceded. “Even though it's classed as a street circuit, it doesn't really feel like it as there are no challenging corners – it's just braking into hairpins, then flat-out. You just don't get the thrill you have on a standard street circuit like Monaco or Singapore.
“The last complex is a little bit more challenging as there's a left-right chicane taken at high speed, followed by another right-hander. Then it's just flat-out with a few corners into the last turn, which is actually one of the trickiest as we're braking while turning-in, so it's easy to overshoot the corner and lose it on the exit.
“Grip levels can be quite low, particularly off-line, so you have to judge any overtaking manoeuvre pretty carefully. That said, the track is also very wide with a lot of run-off areas so you're not worried about touching a barrier. Over one lap it's not a classic, but the racing there can be quite tight and with the cars being so close this year it could produce a good race.
“Valencia needs a medium-to-low downforce aero configuration, and we've shown that we can perform well on this type of track. We were strong in Canada, and I believe we can be quite good in Valencia as well. We've also got some new parts coming for this race that should further improve our performance, including a new front wing and some smaller bodywork changes, plus a few minor suspension component developments.
“I think it looks promising. We've not had the best luck in Valencia in the past, but I hope that the good basic foundations of the car – plus the solid developments we've had over the past races and leading into this one – will put us in good shape to get some more points on the board and close the gap to Renault.”