Adrian Sutil has acknowledged that in company with a number of its rivals – McLaren-Mercedes and Mercedes Grand Prix spring most prominently to mind – Force India will benefit from the delayed start to the F1 2011 World Championship campaign following the cancellation of Bahrain as it will allow the team to play catch-up.
FIF1 was one of only four teams to attend the opening pre-season group test in Valencia early last month still with its 2010-spec car, and as such the Silverstone-based squad has had less track time to get the VJM04 race-ready than have many of its adversaries. Nor, indeed, has the Mercedes-powered contender shown any great glimpses of raw speed since it made its bow at Jerez – meaning the extra preparation time is welcome, Sutil concedes.
“As we have been a bit behind, we are now sure to get our car in good shape for Melbourne,” the German told the official F1 website. “If it were only us being given two extra weeks then it could probably make a difference [to the pecking order], but these two weeks are the same for all, so everybody will continue to develop.”
On that topic, Sutil confessed that as a 'small' team, 'it is difficult' for Force India to keep pace with the rate of upgrades rolled out during the course of the campaign by the sport's biggest-hitters – and also denied that with an F1 rookie alongside him this season in the shape of Paul di Resta, the bulk of development work will fall to him.
“I would not agree that the development work will rest on my shoulders,” underlined the 28-year-old, who moreover revealed that despite persistent speculation late last year and 'lots of stories and rumours in the media about who would eventually inherit my cockpit...it was in fact clear for a long time that I would drive for Force India in 2011', explaining that 'a handshake agreement' was reached in Korea in October.
“Paul is a very experienced driver with four years of DTM under his belt. He is the reigning DTM Champion and has had one year as the test driver with Force India, so you can be sure that he will do his share of development work. On the other hand, I definitely feel experienced enough after four years with the team to play a lead role.”
Sutil went on to opine that he sees 'no risk' involved in the controversial moveable rear wings and discussed the much-criticised Pirelli tyres – particularly the fast-degrading super-soft compound – as well as KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems), with the Mercedes device used by Force India widely-held to be the best around.
“With Mercedes, we have a first-class partner and my belief is that their engine and KERS are the best on the grid for the time being,” he agreed. “In this respect, we are well-positioned, but the car itself – the aero package – is what really counts. If you don't have enough downforce, even the best and strongest engine will not help to get you on the sunny side of results.
“We will have to wait and see how the tyres behave in races and how they will develop over the season. At the end of the day, the situation is the same for all of us, so that means there's equal opportunity for each and every driver on the grid. The one thing that is obviously clear is that the tyres will play a major part in the outcome of this year's championship; who understands and uses them in the best possible way will land a place at the front of the standings.
“The difference between the tyres is still enormous, and it will have to be seen if two pit-stops will do [per grand prix]. The fact is that we have no data whatsoever on their behaviour in hot conditions because of the cancellation of the Bahrain test, so it will be very interesting to see what Pirelli have up their sleeves for us when it is really hot...”