In Conversation with Adrian Sutil and Paul di Resta

I arrived about an hour in advance for my lunch date with the two Sahara Force India drivers. If it hadn’t been for the Metro line construction along the Ring Road, I might have reached earlier. About a week ago I received a call asking me if I was free on the 21st of October around lunchtime, my initial response was an excuse to slither out of any appointment; but the moment it was revealed that I was supposed to interview Adrian Sutil and Paul di Resta, I said yes in a heartbeat.

For those who don’t follow the races, Adrian and Paul represent Sahara Force India on the F1 tracks. For those who don’t know what F1 is….please scamper out of the rock you have been living under. Adrian has been a part of the team since it was formed in 2008. Paul joined later in 2011. I was discussing the questions with Bhavna, a fellow blogger who was there too, when our guests arrived. They were right on time – I think that is a trait of an F1 driver, since they know the importance of a millisecond.

The thing that struck me most was that despite being celebrities of international fame, they did not have any airs about themselves. Since F1 is associated with fast cars and glamour (search F1 images and 50% of them would be of pit girls), it is the stuff James Bond’s wet dreams are made of. Naturally I was expecting some attitude from the two celebrities but was in for a pleasant surprise.

When asked, Adrian explained that he tries to be authentic. He does not pretend to be anyone else off the field and that is the way he is. He accepted that he had both good and bad in him but believes he has a good heart and is a good person overall. He likes to wear his smile and feels that the most important thing is to lead a happy life. He is aware that different individuals will have a different perception of him, but hopes that more people like him than otherwise.
Paul said that loves to live life on his own accord and do what makes him happy. He feels being dedicated to his goals in life and his beliefs drive him. He believes that “if you are a happy person, then you will make people surrounding you happy.”

Talking about the role of the driver in the development of the car, Adrian confirmed that they do have a major role to play. The feedback given by them allows the engineers to fine tune the car and iron out glitches, if any.

The discussion shifted to their most satisfying race, irrespective of the outcome. Paul rated the Singapore race as his most satisfying but before that added that it would usually depend on the driver’s best result combined with the hard-work of the whole team over that weekend.
For Adrian it was his result in Monza in 2009 when he was the 4th to cross the checkered flag. He has a few more 4th positions and has beenDSC_0010-001 in the top 10 too, but rued the fact that the podium has been missing for the Sahara Force India Formula One team. He longs for that great moment and assured that the team was working on it.  

Throwing some light on preparations for the race weekend, Paul thinks everybody is unique in their way. It would depend on how one wants to react, how the experiences have been and the routine which has been developed from a young age….coming through Go Kart, the younger categories and climbing the way up. He said it is something that keeps the body fiery and also rested. The years of training helps one be ready to attack while knowing when that energy is not needed. At the F1 stage dealing with the pressure does not change too much but changes a lot through the different categories that lead up to the F1 stage.
Adrian concurred with Paul and added that it is a very busy sport. He further added that the preparation and fitness level is at its peak during the winter. Though a driver is bound to be fatigued as the season comes to an end, the better the fitness level at the beginning the more fit he is at the end. With the last races approaching, these are the toughest. There is jet lag because of frequent travelling; the change is countries and culture further adds on to the difficulty.

When asked about the diet regime of an F1 driver, Paul said he believes in maintain a balanced healthy diet and I quote him “fortunately we are treated quite well during our travels.” During the race season their travel takes them places, where they are exposed to different cuisines. The secret is to know what the body needs and trying not to diverge too much from what one is used to.
Adrian had similar views and said that one needs to listen to one’s body and know it. It will tell what it needs. The different kind of food is a challenge since the most preferable scenario would be to get what one is accustomed too. But he felt it is also an experience. He does treat himself now and then but makes sure a balance is maintained. (A little bird told me that Adrian loves mango lassi but was unable to get some this time.)

Talking about pit stop strategy, Paul confessed that it depends on how the car behaves that weekend and its handling. There are about 70 people in the team that include specialists who make strategies based on the data available from previous races and the weather forecast. It also depends on the feeling of the driver, what type of tyre he prefers and the performance during the qualifying race. There are a lot of people involved with the decision making and sometimes even at the start of the race the team might be unclear on the number of pit stops.    

When asked about their passion for racing Adrian said that he is all for cars and added that anything with 4 wheels with a certain amounts of speed interests him. He loves to race and drive the car to its limits.
Paul described racing as a ‘healthy drug’. In his words – “It becomes an addiction. It is a hobby and also a job. And to succeed in it is what drives me.”

Both the drivers agreed that the Sahara Force India team has not been able to get too many points. During the last race in Japan the team was unable to add a single point. They would love to get as many points as possible and the points are never enough.

Speaking of team work, Adrian said that though the driver is seen the most and gets the praise, it is the whole team that is responsible for the performance. The team is the most important but sadly they do not get the media recognition they deserve. F1 is a team sport and when the drivers have a better understanding and coordination amongst themselves, the team gets more points.
Paul believes that it is a small team, a family network. Though, Force India does not have the budget like a few other teams, but the important thing for them is that the team sticks together especially during rough times.

Paul confessed that it was his father who inspired him to take up motorsports. His old man was a hobby racer and still helps young talent. He feels that his father put in more effort for him, than he himself did to get to this stage. He said his father is as much a part of his success as he is.
Adrian’s inspiration on the other hand is the sport. In his own words, “I did it once and I really loved it. So I didn’t need to have a role model to pick it up every day.” He described it as an addiction to perfection and tries “to be better and better” in whatever he does; be it motorsport or any other thing. He did look up to a few drivers and tried to learn from them but was never a fan-boy.

Adrian feels that he has many homes now – Germany, Japan, England…India. He considers Suzuka as his favourite circuit. He had stayed a year in Japan during his F3 days and said that there are quite a few old and historic circuits there which are really enjoyable. He mentioned Spa and Monaco before confessing that he is a fan of the old historic circuits. He feels that they have something special – they have a heart.
Paul on the other hand prefers fast tracks. He mentioned Silverstone and Suzuka. He looks forward to the excitement and the adrenaline.  But in the end he feels it is about delivering. Each track has something to offer and it is about delivering one’s best on every track and throughout the season.

When asked about their dream car, Paul dreams of owning a 275 California Ferrari, which he considers his all-time classic. Adrian finds it wp_ss_20131022_0007difficult to choose but added that the old Ferraris especially the 250 GT version are both great to drive and pretty to look at. Moreover, the pre-war cars interest him a lot. He considers the Bugatti SC 57 Atlantic as one of the most beautiful cars from that era. But both agreed that it would be a bad idea to give a race car driver an open budget and freedom to buy cars.

Talking about the post-race revival, Paul jestingly warned us that we would not want to know that. But said it was bingeing. Both mentioned that it is because of years of hard-work and practice that the body gets used to it. They do start the race with a very heavy meal to stock up on the food that would allow them to perform. Though a lot of fluid is needed after a race, the body recovers fast enough. The years of training prepares them for it. Adrian added that Singapore is one of the most challenging in this regard because of the high levels of humidity and temperature that leads to excessive fluid loss during the race. Similarly the Indian GP is quite dehydrating for the drivers. Therefore, fluid reserve was as important as stocking up on food.

Talking about the Sahara Force India Formula One team, Adrian feels that the team has grown a lot in a short span of time; from back of the grid in 2008 to being a strong mid-field contender now. In the last 2 years the team has been in the top 10 a few times and to reach the next step would be a great thing. That would require a lot of effort and budget, and they are working on it. He feels that though the Force India team is a small team, it is a very efficient team.
Paul agreed with Adrian and feels that the team has grown over time. Despite the below par performance in the last three GPs, he feels that the team is growing and has a lot of potential for the future. For him it is a family environment and he feels proud to be a part of it. The team is dedicated towards its work, the technical team has stabilized; he believes that success will come soon.

Personally, I always wondered about the constant chatter back and forth between the driver and the team during a race. While driving at such high speeds where keeping your concentration is paramount, to me that would be a disturbance. Paul feels that instead of a disturbance it makes the life of a driver easier. The constant exchange of information allows them to make changes in the car and in the strategy if necessary.  The driver needs to understand the various devices installed in the car; giving feedback allows the team to suggest changes that would improve the performance.
According to Adrian the amount of talk also depends on the situation. The team is behind the driver and wants to help him. When he first joined F1 he had to really learn to talk to the team while driving since he was not used to that during the F3 stage of his career. Though, it is not easy during the beginning, one gets used to it.

Before a race Adrian tries to forget about other things and focus on what is necessary to be the best for that race. He says he is almost at peace during a race and except problems related to the car, he is switched off to everything else.
Paul confessed that before a race he nervous, excited, anxious and there is adrenaline pumping through him.

As a message to future F1 drivers Adrian feels that it is important to think. Most people only see the good things on TV but to perform at the highest level, there is a lot of hard work and dedication involved.  A lot of traveling that after a point becomes tiring. The most difficult thing is to cope with the bad results. His message for the future F1 aspirants is “If you want to do it, do it 100% or leave it.”
Paul says that it is about enjoying it.

Adrian feels that it is great to have fans and followers especially during bad times. Though not very active on Twitter, he knows that there are a lot of people proud of the team and behind it. They try to make India even more proud of its team, which is also the only F1 team to support the national colours of a nation. He would like the fans to keep supporting them and the team and be a part of the journey.
Paul thinks that fans are the most important. Without fans, there would be no media interest in the sport. And without media interest no brands would be willing to sponsor the teams.

As we are approaching the fag end of this year’s F1 season, I would take this opportunity to wish the Sahara Force India Formula One team the best for the future and hope that they will make India and the fans proud.
May the force be with you, Adrain Sutil and Paul di Resta.





3 Responses to “In Conversation with Adrian Sutil and Paul di Resta”
  1. Rachna says:

    My elder son will completely dig this. He is a huge fan of F1!

  2. reekycoleslaw says:

    That was one hell of a scoop…well done! I would have liked some background of how the interview even came about in the first place.
    The interview itself was nice and detailed. Gave some great insights on how the drivers and the team work together. You are right about the men themselves. They sounded genuine and unpretentious.

  3. alkagurha says:

    A lot goes into what looks like a glamorous event sponsored by biggies. That was an interesting peek Snow.

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