For Giancarlo Fisichella, life has nearly come a full circle.
The 36-year-old is gearing up for his 14th season in Formula One, but the challenge remains as it was when he started: finish races and win points.
Just being a veteran and lending experience to the team is no longer helping his cause. Force India, after a disastrous start in 2008, has made it clear that both their drivers -- he and Adrian Sutil -- need to perform and score points.
With several rule changes for 2009, all teams start on even keel, but the Italian's experience of having driven in more than 200 Grands Prix should still stand out. He believes that the partnership with McLaren for engine and gearbox will definitely boost the team's chances in the upcoming season.
Fisichella tells Chief Sports Correspondent Harish Kotian what it will take for Force India to make it big in Formula One.
How different is it driving the new Force India car powered by McLaren? It should be a big boost for you, especially after the poor showing last year. Isn't it?
First of all, we got different rules, we got the slick tyres back, completely different downforce level. What I can say is that it is two steps forward on the mechanical side. Even the gearbox and engine looks reliable, so I am happy about that. But we need much more downforce to take another step forward.
Did you test the KERS in Jerez? What is the latest situation on using of KERS as far as Force India is concerned?
Unfortunately, we have not tested the KERS system so far. The first time we are going to use will be in the weekend of the Barcelona Grand Prix.
Is there a worry that you did not have much testing in the winter and no further full testing sessions scheduled before the season opening Australian GP on March 29?
Unfortunately, the car was ready very late in the season. The first test was in March and we didn't run enough. The problem was because we signed the contract with McLaren very late and we built the car in less than four months. So we haven't tested enough but we will try to give our best anyway.
But, as compared to the previous car, do you believe that this car is more reliable and the team is heading in the right direction?
As I said before, the car has good potential, mechanically. The engine is good, the gearbox is also working well and the reliability is very good, which is one of the important things at the start of the season.
I think in Barcelona, which is the fifth race of the season, when we will unveil our new package, we can take a step forward and I can tell you better. But, at the moment, we need much more grip than we do.
Is there more pressure on you as compared to last year? In 2008 there wasn't much expectations from Force India, but now, with the McLaren partnership, is there more focus on getting points this season, something team owner Vijay Mallya is stressing on?
I don't feel more pressure. And even if there is more pressure it is better for me. I want to do my best, I want to score and I want to win, but it is not easy.
I will do the maximum I can and, hopefully, we can score some points this season.
You are 36. How important is it to have a good season this year?
It is my 14th season and I have done more than 200 Grands Prix. It is quite important for me to have a good season, score points and keep the motivation high to ensure I keep running in the future.
You have been in F1 for more than 12 years now and the re-introduction of slick tyres should definitely benefit you, since you are one of the few drivers to have actually experienced using the slick tyres in 1996 and 1997?
It is not an advantage. I drove with the slick tyres 12 years ago and I used completely different compounds and completely different cars, so it is not an advantage.
We tested the slick tyres with a few different compounds in our pre-season testing. The hard compound was probably too stiff for the weather conditions, which was less than 20 degrees. But I think once we get temperatures around 25 to 30 degrees it will be all right.
What are the areas you believe the team needs to work on to improve before the Australian Grand Prix?
We need to improve on the aero-dynamic side, the downforce, on traction, but the rest of the car looks really good.
How would you rate your team-mate Adrian Sutil? Do you believe it was a good decision to retain him?
Adrian is a nice guy and we work together without any problem. It was very important to continue with him for this season. I think starting the second season with him was the key for us both, because we have been working together with the engineers since the last year or so. I believe it is going to be a good challenge this year for him too.
Team owner Vijay Mallya has shown keen interest in Force India since taking over the team. How big a role he plays in the team?
This year we made a few changes in the Force India team and I believe we are going in the right direction.
Who is your pick for the F1 title this season?
I think Ferrari is still the strongest team and at the moment McLaren are struggling, but I am sure they will comeback after a few races.
This year I think the F1 title would be a fight between Kimi Raikkonen and Felipe Massa, that's my pick for this year.