Sutil still haunted by Monaco memories

By Alan Baldwin

LONDON (Reuters) - A year on from what remains the greatest and cruellest day of his Formula One career, Force India's Adrian Sutil is still haunted by Monaco Grand Prix memories.

This weekend, in his third appearance in the glamour event of the European season, the German may just have a chance to put them to rest.

Sutil was an astonishing fourth and heading for his team's first points last May when Ferrari's then-world champion Kimi Raikkonen shunted him out of the race with a few laps to go.

The 26-year-old, who had previously received more media coverage for his talents as the trained concert pianist son of professional musicians than for anything he had done on the track, did not know whether to laugh or cry.

He was elated to have made his mark after starting 18th on the grid and driving the race of his life on a track drying out after early rain; he was devastated to end the afternoon empty-handed.

"That was one of the best and worst moments, that's for sure," Sutil told Reuters in an interview. "It took a few weeks to get over it and even now I think about it. It's always there a little bit."

Monaco is one of his favourite circuits and the German stood out there in his debut season with Spyker, Force India's predecessors, in 2007 when he was fastest in a wet practice session.

"With a little bit of rain again maybe we can do something really special," he said of this year's race.


"I like challenges and this circuit is really a challenge because the streets are so narrow and there are barriers everywhere so every little mistake ends up in the wall.

"You need to control your car very well, control yourself and be without mistakes. You can make a real difference there as a driver, if you maybe risk a little bit more and like street circuits," added Sutil.

"I think Monaco is the place to show if you are good or not...if you have a great race there, it's a sign that you are a quick driver."

Sutil has experienced deja vu already this season, again losing out just when the points seemed to be in the bag and with the world champion looming in his mirrors.

In China last month he was in sixth place and ahead of McLaren's Lewis Hamilton with six laps to go when he skidded off the sodden circuit on badly worn tyres.

"I had the same feeling as Monaco," he said. "It's hard to believe when you are in the car and then suddenly you lose it and it's all over."

Force India arrive in Monaco still to score any points in 23 starts but Sutil, a friend and former F3 team mate of Hamilton, has come the closest this year with ninth place in the Australian season-opener in March.

Strangely, for someone who has scored only one point from his 40 races, there may be more expectation on him than he has ever experienced. He shrugged it off, however.

"Always Monaco has been quite good for me so there will be a few expecting something from me but I have no pressure," he said. "I don't care. If I see the opportunity, I will try to take it and see what comes out."


Force India's Indian billionaire owner Vijay Mallya described last year's Monaco race as "the saddest moment of my motorsports career."

Since then, the team have switched to Mercedes engines from Ferrari and are also working closely with McLaren in a partnership that seems tantalisingly close to bearing fruit.

The Silverstone-based team have yet to break through into the second stage of qualifying (Q2) but, with some of the previous top teams struggling for performance, have looked more competitive.

"I'm quite happy with the season so far," said Sutil. "In the first races we said we just wanted to finish and we had very good opportunities sometimes to reach points...I didn't expect this.

"We have to improve in qualifying, we need more downforce...but it is a small team and everything takes maybe a little bit longer than the others," he added.

"It is a much better car than last year...everyone here is doing a good job with the possibilities we have. The car is pretty good, very fast in the straights. There are a lot of good points so the potential is there definitely."

Mallya agreed: "We might not yet be in a points-scoring position but I am happy with the rate of progress we are making," he said in a team preview.

"We've always said top 10 for the first part of the year and then points if and when possible.

"This race I think, with the improvements we have and the confidence of our drivers around this circuit, we could very well get into Q2 -- that should be the aim for now."

(Editing by Clare Fallon

Article Published: 19/05/2009