It's like being in a washing machine. You are pushed forward, you’re pushed sideways. But it’s pure adrenaline. Just great emotion. It’s so fast on the corners, it’s amazing. It’s like flying.”
You may have to take the word of Force India test driver Vitantonio Liuzzi on what a Formula One car feels like on the inside. But for an up-close look from the outside, the wait, as you read this, is just a few hours away.
The first Indian co-owned F1 team’s race car - and not a replica – is in the city already, following a 7,250-kilometre journey from the team factory in Silverstone to Mumbai as regular air freight. It will be officially unveiled at the Gateway of India on Thursday evening.
“This is one of the chassis that we have been using so far,” said Force India team principal Colin Kolles. “It’s too early to show the final race version that will be used (for the first race) in Melbourne.”
The new car will be out on February 25, with the aerodynamics modified in detail from last year’s B-spec car.
Kolles and the team’s three drivers Liuzzi, Giancarlo Fisichella and Adrian Sutil, too settled into the ‘warm’ city on Wednesday, having just concluded almost 1,150 kilometres of testing during a three-day programme in chilly, wet Barcelona.
“Promising but not good enough,” is how Kolles described their run in the tests so far, during which senior driver Fisichella posted the fourth-fastest time among the 15 drivers on track on Day 1. That was before Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen showed their own pre-season form in Bahrain, going two seconds faster than last year’s qualification time.
“It’s quite scary to be honest,” said Kolles of Raikkonen’s pace. “We need to get our act together. We have improved in terms of understanding the set-up, which is basically due to the drivers. But our engineering department needs to deliver.”
Kolles said they have looked competitive and seemed to have reduced the gap between them and the Hondas and Toyotas. So he is hopeful about a decent showing at the season opener in Australia on March 16.
“We hope to get some points,” he said. “Giancarlo was on pole there a couple of years ago and likes the track. On that kind of a circuit, anything’s possible.”
For the moment though, the focus is on Thursday’s presentation to showcase the livery the team will use for the 2008 season – their first since the team was partly taken over by Indian billionaire Dr Vijay Mallya. It’s the team’s second appearance in Mumbai in less than a month, and members are getting increasingly comfortable with each visit.
“It’s going to be quite special at the Gateway,” said Liuzzi, who hails from the coastal Italian town of Pescara and felt more at ease near the seafront. After being part of the city’s “organised chaos” (a.k.a traffic) one more time, Liuzzi concluded: “I must say Indians have the skill. I thought Rome was bad, but people here go even closer to each other and never crash.”