Adrian Sutil has mused that the FIA's imminent ban on off-throttle blown-diffusers in F1 as of the British Grand Prix at Silverstone next month 'might cause a lot of problems' for teams and will make for 'a difficult weekend for everyone' – but for Force India, he concedes, 'it's looking good'.
Ninth place in last weekend's European Grand Prix in Valencia was only Sutil's third points-scoring finish of a thus far disappointing F1 2011 campaign, but significantly, it was a position achieved entirely on merit, with no cars retiring from the race and clinched by dint of leapfrogging Lotus Renault GP rival and countryman Nick Heidfeld when the starting lights went out and maintaining a decent pace from thereon in.
Indeed, after gaining another spot when Michael Schumacher damaged his Mercedes' front wing, Sutil was on-course to finish eighth, until he himself was jumped by Scuderia Toro Rosso ace Jaime Alguersuari on a bold two-stop strategy to most drivers' three. Still, as a way of atoning for his Canadian Grand Prix retirement a fortnight earlier, the 28-year-old bounced back in style.
“I got [Heidfeld] out of the first corner, and then I was ninth,” he recounted. “I put pressure on Michael [Schumacher] for a few laps, and then he was getting faster – but we gained the position anyway when he lost his front wing.
“Then after my stop, suddenly I was ninth, and I thought, 'okay, there's something wrong, for sure there's someone on a two-stop' – and it was [Alguersuari]. I had the feeling that two stops were possible before the race, but it was on-the-edge. Probably his advantage was the new tyres that he had, so that's why it worked out well [for him].
“Over the last ten laps, I was getting closer. We were both on 'Primes', and he lost his tyre performance a little bit in the end; I had better tyres, but there was just not enough to pass. I think the DRS zone didn't work very well. The first activation point was far too late, and the second was not necessary, because there's a third-gear corner where you can't be close at all and we lose so much on the exit that you are never close enough to pass. I would need the whole first straight with DRS, but the activation was working 400 metres after the exit of the previous corner.
“This ninth position was about pure performance, though. It was our strongest weekend, I think [of 2011]. It was not the strategy which meant we were in the points, it was just the speed, so I'm really happy about that. It was a good weekend throughout – a good qualifying, a good race, just a shame I couldn't get the eighth position in the end. I was fighting very hard, but there was just not enough to get by.”
Sutil will have chance to make amends for that next time out at Silverstone – Force India's home grand prix, given that the team's factory is based directly across from the circuit, and one in which he took the chequered flag eighth last year. The German is hopeful that FIF1's current upward trend will be able to continue.
“It's a great track,” he enthused. “What used to be the first sector, before they moved the pits, is amazing. It's a historical circuit and I like it, and it's a local grand prix for the team. It will be a busy weekend!
“I think we didn't lose too much with the qualifying map rule in Valencia; probably Renault lost out a little bit more. This was the first time that we could beat both of them, so it's looking good, but Silverstone is going to be a difficult weekend for everyone, completely without [exhaust] blowing, with the high-speed corners. It might cause a lot of problems...”