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GP Week : Issue 96
24 THE date is Saturday 29 August, 2009, the time precisely 14:59:25 CET, and Giancarlo Fisichella has just posted a laptime of 1m46.308s in Q3 to take the most unexpected pole position of the season, at a team without a points finish in almost two years. A day later and Fisichella has scored the team's first podium finish with a second place -- and is disappointed, having hounded the KERS-powered Kimi Raikkonen for almost 300km. The weekend still lives strong in the minds of all Force India workers, none least Fisichella's then race engineer Jody Eggington: "We'd got to Spa and it was a nondescript Friday," recalled Eggington. "We made a set-up change in the front wing package overnight and right from the very first thing in third practice the drivers were saying 'wow, this is it, this is special, I'm really feeling good in the car, it's transformed.' And we just carried on in a certain direction, got to the end of FP3 and thought we might bag Q2. "We got into Q2 and right into the dying seconds of Q2 he was quickest, so into Q3, wow! We decided on a fuel load which we thought was super-aggressive to get a good qualifying position, as it transpired everyone else had gone the same route. "He went out and he did the lap. We realised on the screen that it was quite special and then he crossed the line and he was asking where he was, and we said "not bad mate, not bad, you're on pole! "In the race we thought we'd be in the top eight. He got a good start and he was away. "With the Safety Car and the restart we got caught, Raikkonen with a KERS system. To be fair to him, Raikkonen didn't put a foot wrong, his car wasn't as good as ours that day, and we couldn't get past him. We left the race disappointed -- it was clearly quicker. A very small amount of disappointment followed by a huge amount of happiness." Even under the 2010 scoring system, Force India would have gone to Belgium with just six points in 2009, but flash forward some 12 months and the team is a regular in Q3 and has already amassed some 47 points. Having shuffled through the hands of four separate owners in five years, from Jordan to Midland to Spyker and finally to Force India in 2008, the team is finally beginning to reap the rewards of proper investment by Dr Vijay Mallya after years of uncertainty and under- funding. The journey has been far from easy, as team manager Andy Stevenson explains: "It's been a very tough journey," began Stevenson. "Right from the days when the team was sold from Jordan to Midland, we were struggling. We didn't have a new car, we had to adapt a Toyota engine to fit in to a car that was designed for a Cosworth, hence the performance wasn't that great. Also we had to sign two rookie drivers because it was very late in the day for us to commit to any top-line drivers, but no top-line drivers would come because we were a very unknown quantity. "We went for a few years like that, which I would have preferred to miss out on. "Then, when the team was taken over by Dr. Mallya, we decided with he and Rob Fernley [deputy team principal] that we needed