A palpably unimpressed Adrian Sutil has hit out at his Force India F1 team-mate Vitantonio Liuzzi after qualifying for this weekend's Brazilian Grand Prix at Interlagos, accusing the under-pressure Italian of being 'over-the-pace'...and not for the first time this year.
With Force India clearly struggling for speed in São Paulo, both drivers faced a battle to get beyond the initial Q1 phase of the hour-long qualifying session, and their cause was not aided when Liuzzi went off-track going downhill through Mergulho. As he rejoined, he did so on the racing line and directly in front of Sutil, forcing the German to swerve out of the way to avoid a collision and wrecking both of their laps.
With his intermediate tyres badly deteriorating on the drying track surface, it was Sutil who ultimately failed to make the cut – the first time the 27-year-old has not made it out of Q1 all season – and to rub salt into the wounds, he will consequently begin from the very back row of the grid after his five-place drop for his various Korean indiscretions was taken into consideration.
“It was too close for team-mates,” he later told the BBC
, castigating Liuzzi's driving as unduly careless and lamenting a chronic lack of grip in the damp conditions. “On the first run I lost out when I came up to Tonio just as he had gone off, and that was probably when the track was at its best. I don't know what's wrong with him, but he did it several times this year. I think he's just a little bit over-the-pace...
“[That meant] I had an untidy Q1, and then the grip was just not there on the last outing. The track came up a little bit at the end, but then the rain started and I had a lot of graining on the tyres at that point and couldn't do a reasonable lap time. The tyres are just not working at all – we got graining very quickly and the general balance is not good. It's just very low grip and oversteering quite a lot.
“Last year [I was] on P3 and now I'm on P18, which shows how quick it goes, and with the penalty we are starting quite far down the field – but I'm definitely not giving up. We've got very strong race pace and our pit calls in changeable weather this year have been good. We've achieved too much this year to let ourselves go at the last jump, so I'm massively motivated to go out and give it everything!”
After making it into Q2 by the skin of his teeth and at his team-mate's expense, Liuzzi, for his part, subsequently proved unable to do much with his 'second-chance' opportunity, winding up the slowest driver in the session by almost four tenths of a second and admitting to being somewhat surprised by the issues FIF1 has encountered thus far in Brazil.
“It was a strange session as we were really positive about the car in the morning and everything was working very well,” rued the 29-year-old, whose seat is rumoured to be far from safe for 2011. “The car seemed balanced, and we didn't change very much from FP3 to qualifying as we were pretty confident we could be very close to Q3.
“In the afternoon, though, the car seemed to lose grip and we were really struggling under braking, particularly in sector two where the car was sliding all over the track. We tried, but in the end we couldn't get higher than P17 – but we are fighters, and we just come back stronger when things are hard.”
“This was obviously not the session we were looking for, or what we were expecting,” acknowledged the Silverstone-based squad's chief operating officer Otmar Szafnauer, “but as we know, the race can be unpredictable. Last year at this very track we started P3 and didn't finish, at the last race in Korea Tonio started P17 and finished sixth – there's still everything to play for.”