Force India's 2011 season got off to a good start with both Paul Di Resta and Adrian Sutil scoring points in the opening races. Circuit Engineering Director, Dominic Harlow, speaks about the season so far.
Dominic, how do you view the first three races of the season?
We saw the first races as something of a preface to the season in that they're always quite unusual, and they usually feature a few more random factors than when we get to Europe. We relied a little bit on that to get us some results before hopefully improving our car performance, because the gap was a bit too big to begin with. But overall we were quite positive about the races. We got the cars home each time, and we seemed to be in sixth position, team-wise, each time. That's pretty much where we belonged in the races, and we were quite satisfied with the job we did.
As you said you got the cars home each time. Was it satisfying to have that reliability?
Reliability seems to get better and better for everyone, doesn't it? It's what we want, but we shouldn't be under any illusions. It's always a close-run thing, as any incident could take you out of the race. Adrian had contact with Barrichello in Malaysia and Perez in China, and he might not have finished. We're not complacent by any means. Obviously, the aim is to get to the end and run reliably, and we managed that. However we had a few problems in some of the free practice sessions, which we understood and fixed.
Can you give us an update on the development of the VJM04?
We've got a couple of threads going on at both ends of the car. We've got some parts to evaluate in Turkey, and there are some more in the pipeline, and it's obviously all very aero focussed.
So will Friday in Turkey be busy in terms of understanding the new parts?
Yes. Nico's in the car again, and we've got the additional tyres as well, so there's plenty to do. And that will feed into the Barcelona and Monaco events and so on. It's a fairly busy programme from now up until Canada, where we'll bring a Montreal downforce package.
Tyres have always been significant in Turkey. How big a story will they be this year?
Obviously in previous years it's been a challenge with the right front, and you do see some problems if things are not quite right. I think it's going to be one of the challenges, tyre life and tyre management, as we saw in China. What you've got in turn one and 13 in China is quite similar to what we'll see in turns 8 and 9 in Turkey. I wouldn't be surprised to see quite a lot of stops! However, we're quite familiar with the tyres in terms of those two compounds. It's just another different circuit. Pirelli have been doing some of their testing there, so we have some data.
Are you beginning to understand what works in terms of strategies?
We're understanding the new rules of the game, the things that you have to weight into your whole strategy of tactics for the weekend. And all those weightings have changed. Each time we raced we learned a little bit more, and filled in a few more of the blanks, which helps with your forecasting and predictions for the next one.
You seem to be doing some long stints. Is that something that works for your car?
I wouldn't say that it's a particular tactic of ours to do those longer stints, but there's an appreciation that sometimes that might be possible, and it's knowing when to do it and on which of the tyres. That's what we're trying to understand.
Finally, are you pleased with the way Paul has settled in?
Yes, we're very happy with the way he's started the season. Outside of F1 he's a very successful racing driver already, and as well as the Friday sessions last year he's also done a good amount of simulator mileage and a reasonable amount of testing in the winter.