Adrian Sutil and Vitantonio Liuzzi represent 'one of the strongest driver line-ups in the field' in F1 2010, contends Force India chairman and team principal Dr. Vijay Mallya – and it is the duo's 'harmonious working relationship' and 'near-optimum level' of performance that he claims will help carry the team to a strong result in Valencia this weekend.
Having started respectively fifth and ninth in the Canadian Grand Prix just under a fortnight ago – a season-best for the Silverstone-based squad – Liuzzi and Sutil unfortunately found their cars to be magnets for trouble, and for the attentions of rather over-eager rivals as both suffered contact that necessitated unscheduled pit-stops and sent them plummeting down the order, from where plucky fight backs would result in ninth and tenth positions at the chequered flag.
“Like any event, there were positives and negatives,” Mallya reflected of FIF1's Montreal outing. “Two cars back in Q3 and two cars in the points is not something to be sniffed at, and earlier in the season we would have been delighted with this.
“Yet, as we said at the time, given the starting positions and our promising speed over the weekend, we would have expected more. Our race pace was very strong and, even with both drivers racing damaged cars as a result of their separate accidents, we could easily overtake and race with the front of the field.”
The Kingfisher Airlines billionaire, however, has similarly high or even higher hopes for the upcoming European Grand Prix, scene of Force India's turnaround last year and arguably the race at which the team first stated its ambition as a respectable midfield contender rather than a tail-ender merely making up the numbers at the back of the pack. Having pulled off double points-scoring finishes in the two previous 'street' races in 2010 to-date – in Monaco and Canada – Mallya is optimistic of completing the hat-trick in Spain.
“Valencia was really where our performance started to show through last year,” stated the 54-year-old, “so we are all looking forward to going back there. Our technical team and the drivers are confident we'll go well there, as it is medium-to-low downforce and the performance we showed in Canada demonstrated that we have a strong package on this type of configuration.
“Additionally, we have some new upgrades scheduled for introduction that should keep us abreast of the other teams. It's a development race now, and rather than introduce major new upgrades we're doing it as-and-when ready to keep the momentum high. I think Valencia should suit us equally as well [as Montreal], and with both drivers performing at near-optimum levels, and a bit of luck, I think we can finish the job there.
“When you see [Sutil and Liuzzi] together, there is a harmonious working relationship. They constantly talk about the races, sit in the same debriefs, eat meals together at the circuit and do get on well together, and I think that's one of the many reasons we are performing so well this year.
“While clearly wanting to be as fast as they can, they believe that the team comes first and by helping the overall level of performance they can, themselves, achieve their own goals. For me, it's one of the strongest driver line-ups in the field as they work so well together.”