Adrian Sutil has admitted that it is more important than ever to find the first top three finish of his lengthy F1 career, and says he hopes his move to Sauber will finally allow him to realise the ambition.
Despite being part of Force India's most successful line-ups over the years, including the 2009 partnership with Giancarlo Fisichella that saw the Italian finish second in Belgium, Sutil has yet to step onto the podium, and he concedes that his 2014 move to Sauber is partly inspired by that goal.
"For me, every year the target and the big goal is to go better than the previous year and better than my overall best ranking in the championship, which was ninth in 2011,” the German told Sky Sports Online
, “It is what I want to improve, so ninth or better is the clear target.
"If there is a podium available, I will try to make it because I've never had one in F1 and I am desperate to get it. It is the target, [but] I can't confirm if it is going to happen or not, it will all depend on the package of the car and how we get on. It is most important that everyone is focused and committed and keen on the success for next year."
Sutil revealed that the decision to part company with Force India – the team with which he has spent his entire F1 career in one form or another – was not taken on the spur of the moment, having been in talks with Sauber since his enforced year out of the sport in 2012.
"From the beginning of [last] season we had talks, and I was in contact with Miss Kaltenborn already since February 2012 when I wasn't even racing,” he confirmed, “So we had contact for a while and it was just a case of time to find a solution together.
“This year, it was clear for me as to whether I wanted another year at Force India or [to move to] Sauber. Sauber was my preference, so I was glad that the first priority went through and I am in a new team with a new challenge.
"I am happy to be in a new team, [with] a new environment, fresh energy. We have good goals, the team is a stable, historical team and I enjoy working with them.”
Although Sauber failed to follow up on the four podium finishes it achieved in 2012 – courtesy of Sergio Perez, who replaces Sutil at Force India, and Kamui Kobayashi – the Swiss team benefited from the mid-season change of tyres, allowing Nico Hulkenberg to become a threat for top five points at almost every round in the final third of the year. With the German also heading for Force India in 2014, and a wholesale regulation change potentially resetting the midfield pecking order, Sutil admits that there is no guarantee that Sauber can continue in the same vein, but he is clearly hoping for a strong start to the campaign.
"No one knows what is realistic, we don't know how the car is going to be, it is a very difficult question to answer right now," the German admitted, "It is a new season with completely new cars and I think the first few races with all the fuel saving [are] going to be a challenge.
"No one knows how much you can push - as drivers, we have to find the right way to push, but also save fuel at the right time to maximise the package. In the early races, it is going to be very difficult, someone will miss out and, for some, there will be a big chance."