There might be a legal battle brewing with Italian aerodynamics company Aerolab [see separate story – click here
], but that has not stopped Force India F1 chairman and team principal Dr. Vijay Mallya from expressing 'cautious optimism ' and 'quiet confidence' ahead of the upcoming Italian Grand Prix at Monza – as he insists the Silverstone-based squad is 'back in business'.
Mallya's buoyancy was fuelled by a competitive showing for both Adrian Sutil and Vitantonio Liuzzi in the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps last time out, with the German taking the chequered flag a fine fifth to match his best result of the F1 2010 campaign to-date, and the Italian coming home tenth and left ruing a costly coming-together with Red Bull Racing rival Sebastian Vettel that he argued likely deprived him of eighth position.
On that kind of form, there may well be further duels with world championship leaders Red Bull at Monza – a circuit whose ultra high-speed layout and long straights will, like Spa, play to the strengths of the Mercedes-Benz engine in the back of the VJM03 – and Sutil, indeed, qualified on the front row of the grid and raced to a superb fourth place with fastest lap to his credit in Italy last year.
Mallya acknowledges that with the Belgian performance having provided Force India with a timely fillip off the back of a brace of disappointing non-scoring outings in Germany and Hungary, Vettel's team-mate Mark Webber may not be a million miles from the money when he tips FIF1 to shine this weekend [see separate story – click here
]. All-in-all, the Indian affirms, the team is primed to pounce.
“Yet again, Spa was a good track for us, ultimately yielding a double points finish for Adrian and Tonio,” reflected the 54-year-old Kingfisher Airlines billionaire. “These points were crucial for us in the constructors' championship, moving us 18 points clear of Williams for sixth – but it also showed that we're back in business for the second part of the season. The pace and the handling were both encouraging and, with similar configuration tracks coming up in Italy, Japan and Brazil, we're hoping this performance can be replicated.
“Of course, we know that the on-track fights will intensify and it's not going to be easy to consolidate our position, but we feel the momentum is with us now. Adrian and Tonio both raced very well [in Belgium],and we've been given a real boost by the double points – we needed it after a couple of frustrating weekends before the summer break.
“We're not sitting back based on this performance, though – we've been doing a lot of work back at the factory on the blown diffuser, and we conducted a successful aero test last week to develop it further. We will also use a low-downforce package to suit the top speeds we reach at Monza, which is a further refinement of the Spa package.
“We're cautiously optimistic and quietly confident – if it all comes together, I would hope we could show a similar level of performance and results to Spa, but there are so many varying factors that you just can't take anything for granted at this stage in the season.”