Force India finally announced Adrian Sutil as its second driver less than a fortnight before the first race of the season in Melbourne, Australia. The announcement ended months of speculation, as the rumour mill churned out names of potential drivers, Narain Karthikeyan being just one of them. But as the first race drew near that list grew thin. In fact, the Force India announcement has come just in time – as teams gather in Barcelona for the final pre-season test.
It has been a rocky road for Sutil who was racing for Force India till last year. In 2011, after the Chinese Grand Prix, Sutil attacked Renault executive Eric Lux with a broken champagne glass at a Shanghai nightclub. Lux pressed criminal charges against the German driver who ended up with an 18-month suspended sentence, a fine of £167,000 and also lost his F1 seat.
Announcing Sutil’s return, Force India said that the German will be testing for the team this week and driving on Friday and Saturday. Teammate Paul di Resta will be back in the car on Sunday. Team principal and managing director Dr Vijay Mallya admitted that the decision to sign on Sutil, was a tough one. “It was a close call, but ultimately we felt that Adrian’s experience and historic links to the team gave him the edge, and will provide us with the best possible chance of realizing our ambitions for the coming season,” Mallya said adding, “If he can rediscover the exceptional form he showed in the second half of 2011, I’m confident that we can pick up where we left off at the end of 2012. As for Jules Bianchi, he has impressed us enormously with his speed and work ethic, and I’m hopeful we can continue working with him this year to help him develop into a future Grand Prix driver.”
Sutil said he was delighted to be back in F1 and thanked Sahara Force India for the second chance. “Having been away from the sport, I’m even more determined to achieve my goals in Formula 1. Things went really well at the Barcelona test last week and it almost feels as though I’ve never been away. Driving the car felt so natural and I was able to get back in the groove quickly and find the limit. Now my focus is on making the most of the final test session this week, working with the team in the simulator and getting myself in the best possible shape for Melbourne.”
And in case you are wondering, Sutil recently told Skysports that there will not be any visa issues while travelling to countries for the races. He sounded pretty confident. This will be Sutil’s 6th year in F1 and 5th racing season in the colours of Sahara Force India.