Posted on January 26, 2011
Force India confirms Sutil, Di Resta in race seats, Hulkenberg reserve | James Allen on F1 – The official James Allen website on F1

With five days to go until the start of the new testing season, the worst kept secret of the winter was confirmed today when the Force India team announced that its two race drivers this season will be Adrian Sutil and Paul di Resta. Williams refugee Nico Hulkenberg becomes the reserve driver.


It’s a great step for Di Resta, 24, who impressed last season in his role as Friday driver and as champion of the DTM with Mercedes. The support of the Stuttgart manufacturer has been instrumental in him getting the role. Di Resta beat reigning F1 champion Sebastian Vettel when they were team mates in F3 and Mercedes has been pushing for him to get his chance for some time. He took part in eight of the Friday morning free practices sessions last season. To be given the nod ahead of the more experienced Hulkenberg, when he became available after being dropped by Williams, shows how much faith Mercedes and Force India has in his abilities.

Di Resta is managed by Anthony Hamilton, father of Lewis Hamilton.

“Naturally I am thrilled to be making my race debut this season,” said Di Resta, who becomes the third British driver on the F1 grid. “Becoming an F1 driver has been a long-held ambition of mine, something I’ve wanted to do since I first stepped into a kart, and to finally realise it feels amazing. I’ve worked really hard for this opportunity throughout my career and to get it with Force India, a young team that’s got ambitions as big as mine, is genuinely exciting. I can’t wait to be on the grid in Bahrain, it can’t come soon enough!”

For team boss Vijay Mallya, the combination of Sutil and Di Resta is a potent one,

“I am genuinely excited by the drivers we will be fielding in 2011,” he said. “I believe that the combination of talent we’ve assembled gives us one of the strongest line-ups on the grid: Adrian has matured into one of F1′s most consistent and highly-rated young drivers, while Paul is, I believe, a real star of the future. He has won in every category in his career and this base speed was in evidence when he got in the car on Fridays last year.”

Sutil is starting his fifth season as a Force India driver, during which time they have gone from the back of the grid to a solid top ten runner.

“We’ve made some good progress together over the past four years and I’m excited to be part of the the team when it takes the next step,” said Sutil. “Which is hopefully to become a front running team. We have the same ambitions so it makes a lot of sense to achieve them together.”

Force India were locked in a battle with Williams last season for 6th place in the Constructors’ Championship, losing out narrowly at the last round. It is likely they will be battling again this season. It will be difficult with the resources available to go much better than sixth, but to do so the team will need consistent points scoring from both drivers and that means Di Resta scoring at least 60% of the points Sutil scores. Last year the German scored 47 points, the same as Williams Rubens Barrichello.

The new line up leaves no place for Tonio Liuzzi and the Italian who drove 25 GPs for the team doesn’t even get a “wish him well” mention in the team’s press statement. He had a valid contract for next season, but the relationship has had a messy ending.

As I posted earlier in the month, with the caveat that we do not know what his contract says – it looks like Liuzzi would have to be paid off for the 2011 season, probably around €1.5 million, plus possibly 50% of the bonus cut (another €750,000). But then he may also seek damages because being dropped so late like this harms his career and his chances of finding a seat for 2011.

The nuclear option would be to seek some kind of injunction against the team to stop it racing, but it’s hard to see it coming to that.

Force India confirms Sutil, Di Resta in race seats, Hulkenberg reserve
43 Responses

  1.   1. Posted By: Nilesh
        Date: January 26th, 2011 @ 5:31 pm 

    James,

    Do you think Liuzzi got a fair crack and was better replaced or do you think he should’ve had another chance?

    It was interesting to hear Kimi say last year that it was better to terminate the contract than stay with the team knowing that they did not want him. Would Liuzzi still want to be with FI knowing that he is not needed by them?

    [Reply]

    Williams4Ever Reply:

    IMO Liuzzi is not exactly an Alonso, Hamilton or Vettel. But then again the seat in question is not again Ferrari, McLaren or a RedBull.

    I am not a fan of Liuzzi, but he has been too much unlucky since his return Monza’09 in FI team, there have been races where he has to retire from races for no fault of his own (like it used to happen with Webber few years ago). So your heart should go out for this bloke.

    IMO the Italian should do everything to getting his dues as matter of principle!!

    In ideal world FIF1 should honor their contract with Liuzzi, but isn’t this the same team which is renowned for being late on their payments to their suppliers and has pending court cases from parties that have provided services to them?

    About your example of Kimi, you are so right on this one. JV and SauberBMW’s 2006 season comes to mind. JV had fulfilled all the contractual terms in the 2005 season and had airtight contract in place. While some in the team were backing JV due to his technical inputs, the new team boss Mario Theissen had pretty much made up his mind on JV and JV got boot mid season on slightest injury excuse. When he was booted JV was pretty much in touch with his team-mate’s performances and on paper there was no reason for dumping JV.

    [Reply]

    Cridland Reply:

    Did Kimi give Ferrari their money back? I thought he kept it.

    [Reply]


  2.   2. Posted By: Williams4Ever
        Date: January 26th, 2011 @ 5:37 pm 

    Congrats to Paul DR.

    Fans of Pedro DLR will have some comforting thoughts that the PDR initials will continue to grace the time screen on race weekends :)

    Points to ponder –

    Will true racing fans find it offending that a pay driver (remember the free Merc Engine/KERS) is getting chance ahead of Nico Hulkenberg who had brilliant debut season and has more recent single seater racing experience??

    Does Wily Weber really has enough clout as he claims to have??

    After all Anthony Davidson successfully convinced Mercedes and FI managements that his client is better investment than a young driver that has racing experience from recent F1 season, amazing resume from Feeder Series and of German Nationality as well…

    [Reply]

    john g Reply:

    i think you mean anthony hamilton rather than ant davidson…?

    will be good to see what di resta is capable of. i think he’ll at least be up there with sutil by the middle of the year, and looking at 2010 was a much better choice than liuzzi for whom lets be honest the best thing in his career right now would be a suitcase of cash for not racing.

    [Reply]

    Williams4Ever Reply:

    My Bad for Hamilton Davidson mixup.

    As for Liuzzi getting suitcase of cash for not racing, there are lots of other Force India Service Providers ahead of the Italian in queue to get pending payment issues resolved :D .

    Good luck to him. unless he uses the Italian trick of putting arrest warrant on Mallya during the Italian GP weekend, I don’t see this happening…

    [Reply]

    Highrevver Reply:

    anthony hamilton you mean… any how, fi had a good indication of how quik pdr was so it wasn’t really something willy webber was lacking. as to racecraft, pdr has that in bag fulls!!

    [Reply]


  3.   3. Posted By: Nazdakka
        Date: January 26th, 2011 @ 5:54 pm 

    @James: How do you expect the business with Liuzzi’s contract to play out?

    [Reply]

    James Allen Reply:

    Depends if he gets his money or not and whether he decides to take it further and seek damages given how late in the day it is

    [Reply]

    Graham Shevlin Reply:

    Given Force India’s rumored cash flow/supplier payment problems in the recent past, Liuzzi might have to ready that seizure order…

    [Reply]


  4.   4. Posted By: Iberian M.P.H.
        Date: January 26th, 2011 @ 6:01 pm 

    Congrats to PdR – he fully deserves to be on the grid. Let’s see what he can do in 2011.

    PS These guys look like Nirnava in the photo featured here. Is Sutil the new Cobain?

    [Reply]


  5.   5. Posted By: Richard M
        Date: January 26th, 2011 @ 6:08 pm 

    Will Hulkenberg be driving on some of the Friday practice sessions?

    [Reply]

    Richard Bell Reply:

    I hope not, particularly if he takes Pauls seat because he needs all the experience he can get.

    I can’t see how it’ll benefit the team if he does.

    [Reply]

    Damien (aka Frenchie) Reply:

    It might be the case there is a contractual agreement to drive on Fridays. It’s also worth remembering his manager is Wili Weber.

    I can see Mercedes pushing for this as there hasd been rumours of Hulkenberg taking over from MSC in 2012.

    [Reply]


  6.   6. Posted By: AdrianP
        Date: January 26th, 2011 @ 6:15 pm 

    It’s a bit bizarre prefer Di Resta to Hulkenberg – an impressive young driver with one season under his belt already. But Di Resta more than deserves the opportunity.

    [Reply]

    Nick F Reply:

    I think that too. I’m really happy to have another Brit in F1 because they were getting a bit thin on the ground, but I would have thought Hulkenberg was the safer choice. A few special drivers just come in and blitz the sport, but most take time to bed in. Hulkenberg for example did a lot better in the second half of the season last year.

    Anyway I wish Di Resta luck. I hope he does really well.

    [Reply]

    Andy C Reply:

    As a Mercedes factory driver, I wouldnt surprised if Mercedes have reduced their engine price to help Paul into the drive.

    But make no mistake, Paul is a very very good driver, and I’ve no doubt at all that he will beat Sutil over the season.

    Will be interested to see some comparison times actually to see how he measures up to Hulkenburg on a Friday.

    [Reply]


  7.   7. Posted By: Richard
        Date: January 26th, 2011 @ 7:15 pm 

    Good to see Paul Di Resta getting a race opportunity. I’m not sure it’s right to brand him as a pay driver; surely the sponsors who put up the money will only do so for people they have assessed as having appropriate talent. As far as Hulkenberg goes the “pay driver” displacing him is surely Maldano rather than Di Resta!

    [Reply]


  8.   8. Posted By: bones
        Date: January 26th, 2011 @ 7:35 pm 

    James how many races do you think we will have to wait to start hearing gossips about Hulkenberg taking Di Resta’s seat?

    [Reply]

    James Allen Reply:

    I think Di Resta will do alright. Sutil might be the one under pressure from the hulk

    [Reply]

    Andy Carr Reply:

    I expect The Hulk to replace Sutil at the end of the season, with Sutil looking to move himself to a top 4 team, most likely Renault Lotus Renault… or whatever their official name is :-)

    [Reply]

    Andy C Reply:

    Or before…

    I doubt a top 4 team have seen enough from sutil to warrant a top 4 place.

    I cant see McLaren taking him, nor Ferrari, and even if one driver from RB leaves at the end of this year (probably Mark), I would think Redbull would look elsewhere.

    Will be interesting to see at the end of 2011 who moves where, as I definitely think Kubica will move.

    Colin Reply:

    Sutil may have missed that boat Andy. James is right, Di Resta will push him hard and if he gets ahead, Sutil will be vulnerable to the Hulk.

    Andy Carr Reply:

    Valid points, but I still think Sutil has a lot to give, if in a good car… hypothetically speaking… lets say Schumacher does retire at the end of the season, that’s a seat available right there for Sutil. An experienced German to a German team.

    I can’t see Kubica going to anyone other than Ferrari Redbull or McLaren. McLaren are set for 2012 with Jenson and Lewis. Mark Webber’s may retire at the end of the season. And Massa is under fire for under performing. So there are two possible seats there. Personally with all the Vettel Ferrari talk circling at the moment, I’d expect Robert to take a seat at Red Bull in 2012… you heard it here first people!!

    2012:
    Red Bull = Vettel and Kubica
    McLaren = Hamilton and Button
    Ferrari = Alonso and ???
    Mercedes = Rosberg and Sutil


  9.   9. Posted By: Brian
        Date: January 26th, 2011 @ 9:10 pm 

    At last di Resta gets a race seat, based on his performance in the lower formulae he should rightly have been in F1 years ago…

    Hats off to Vijay Mallya for choosing drivers based primarily on performance, promise and talent rather than the size of their cheque book. There will be more than enough pay drivers on the grid this year as it is.

    [Reply]

    irish con Reply:

    thinking the same myself pal. talent over money everytime

    [Reply]

    Williams4Ever Reply:

    Discount in mercedes engine/KERS bill of 8M ~ Buying Race seat albeit at cost of “Corporation” than state/individual sponsors. So whom are we kidding its a pay drive for sure.

    Of course Paul Should have got this opportunity way back and shouldn’t have had to apprenticeship in F1 driver’s retirement home (AKA DTM series). But then the slope on what is “perceived” as top of motorsports pyramid is too sharp thats the fact of life there are 24 drives but not all teams are well funded as RedBull/Ferrari/McLaren and other drivers have to show some cash for their “passion”. PDR is at least lucky that Mercedes has agreed to pay for his passions so at least he doesn’t meet the fate of a Gary Paffett or Ant Davidson who trusted their career in hands of particular team and teams never gave them a chance neither bought them a drive elsewhere.

    Hope PDR’s transition from 500 HP to 700 HP is smooth and he delivers the potential that was talked about 2-3 years ago.

    [Reply]


  10.   10. Posted By: Andy C
        Date: January 26th, 2011 @ 10:02 pm 

    Excellent signing of Di resta. Will be interesting to see how he does, as I think he’s got excellent ability.

    Similarly, having the hulk breathing down their necks should keep them on their toes.

    I wonder if PDr and hulk will be the merc gp pairing in 2 seasons from now…. :-)

    Won’t that be a bit awkward having anthony in the force India pit and not in maccas.

    [Reply]


  11.   11. Posted By: Tommy boy
        Date: January 26th, 2011 @ 11:30 pm 

    Seems that Mercedes did the hiring and see DiResta as having better potential than Hulkenburg. If they thought he was the better option they would have put him under contract (think they may have anyway) and given him the race seat… especially since he is German.

    Don’t undertand comment #8
    “James how many races do you think we will have to wait to start hearing gossips about Hulkenberg taking Di Resta’s seat?”

    Di Resta has clearly excelled at all he has turned his hand to – F3 beating Vettel and DTM (look how Coulthard and Ralf Schumacher fared). Time will tell how he fares in F1.

    [Reply]


  12.   12. Posted By: Damien (aka Frenchie)
        Date: January 27th, 2011 @ 5:18 am 

    I’m glad some teams invest in grooming talented drivers and offer them race seats.
    (If only Honda had done the same with Davidson over Sato.)

    Hamilton and McLaren, Vettel and Red Bull, now Di Resta and Force India (/Mercedes). Great news for F1 and a nice balance over pay drivers (Petrov, Maldonado, Perez, D’Ambrosio and the HRT drivers).

    Liuzzi got a fair crack at Toro Rosso and Force India. He has shown that he is not world champion material and I find it normal that he has to make way for another driver.

    [Reply]


  13.   13. Posted By: Mario
        Date: January 27th, 2011 @ 8:09 am 

    Excellent “news”. I have a feeling di Resta will do better than Sutil.

    [Reply]


  14.   14. Posted By: Romford
        Date: January 27th, 2011 @ 8:13 am 

    Really great that di Resta is going to get a shot finally.
    Seems that nobody is going to be missing Liuzzi except for Joe Saward, who is adamant that Liuzzi is the second coming of Aryton Senna.

    James, would love to hear your opinion on this!

    [Reply]

    Andy C Reply:

    I was quite interested to see how strong a stance he took on that too Romford. A number of times in the past as well.

    Contracts in F1 can be paid up, whether we like it or not. Just ask Kimi….

    [Reply]


  15.   15. Posted By: Ash
        Date: January 27th, 2011 @ 9:01 am 

    I think he would be better than liuzzi during qualifying. lolzz….

    [Reply]


  16.   16. Posted By: Pally
        Date: January 27th, 2011 @ 1:03 pm 

    Brilliant news.

    This guy beat Vettel in an identical F3 car in a straight fight.

    I’m sure he can do it in a F1 car also.

    [Reply]


  17.   17. Posted By: Tom L.
        Date: January 27th, 2011 @ 4:37 pm 

    I don’t understand how in so many people’s eyes, Maldonado, who won the main F1 feeder series last year, is a “pay driver” and doesn’t deserve his seat, yet di Resta, who won DTM but comes with less sponsorship, is worthy of a race seat. It’s a travesty that Maldonado was taken over Hülkenberg, but OK that di Resta was given preference over him? British bias perhaps? (And before anyone says anything, I’m British).

    If Maldonado had been given a drive off the back of a DTM championship, I wonder if people would have been so positive about it…

    [Reply]

    Williams4Ever Reply:

    +100000
    Couldn’t have put it in any better way!!!

    [Reply]

    John L Reply:

    I do agree with you party. However, it took Maldonado 4 tries to win GP2, with Hulkenburg winning in his first season I believe. Furthermore, di Resta has a good track record in lower formula, and had an impressive first practice session in Melbourne with FI (http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/606/A65604503).

    But if we’re British, surely it’s our duty to support our drivers? Can’t see the Spanish cheering for Hamilton or Button?!

    [Reply]

    Tom L. Reply:

    “it took Maldonado 4 tries to win GP2, with Hulkenburg winning in his first season I believe”

    This is very true, and I never tried to compare the two because it’s already been done to death. But the fact is that Maldonado did win, in a series which contains the majority of upcoming talent (regardless of the fact that the likes of Hülkenberg, Di Grassi and Senna had all graduated to F1). At the current point in time, he is one of the more promising young drivers, regardless of whether the current GP2 crop may end up to be far better after a couple of seasons’ experience, and is therefore worth a shot. People do improve over 4 years! I doubt anyone honestly thought around ’96-’97 that Hakkinen would become a double world champion, or a few years ago that Webber could be a serious championship contender.

    “di Resta has a good track record in lower formula”
    Most drivers who get anywhere near F1 have a good track record in lower formulae. Yeah, he beat Vettel in F3. The following year, Grosjean and Buemi beat Hülkenberg in the same series – does that make them better drivers?
    Maldonado won Italian Formula Renault and would have won Formula Renault 3.5 but for a disqualification for a technical infringement. I’m not saying di Resta shouldn’t get his chance, I just wish people would view the situation slightly more objectively.

    “But if we’re British, surely it’s our duty to support our drivers?”

    Why should it be? F1 is part of the entertainment business. As a fan, I don’t feel a “duty” to do anything. What difference does it make who we support? If the drivers are that good, our support or lack thereof isn’t going to affect their performance.

    [Reply]


  18.   18. Posted By: fof1
        Date: January 27th, 2011 @ 5:34 pm 

    I think that this will be a difficult season for di Resta, and I don’t agree with the opinion of some that he will easily beat Sutil. A lack of recent non-DTM will hurt him, and at the moment I expect the qualifying score in Sutil’s favour to be close to what it was against Liuzzi. Hulkenberg-Sutil in FI cars in 2012 is my prediction.

    [Reply]

    Williams4Ever Reply:

    That is if the team survives all the creditors breathing down Mallya’s neck (and related court cases) and if the team boss is able to plug that exodus of key technical resources from this team.

    [Reply]


  19.   19. Posted By: forzaminardi
        Date: January 28th, 2011 @ 10:13 am 

    James, I have noticed certain other well-known F1 journalists going to bat at length and rather incomprehensibly for Liuzzi and lately barely hiding their bitterness about his being dropped by Force India. Do you have any idea as to why an unlucky but when all is said and done, apparently fairly mediocre F1 driver has commanded such enthusiasm?

    [Reply]

    James Allen Reply:

    People form close relationships with drivers, engineers, team principals etc and it’s hard to maintain objectivity sometimes, I guess. There’s nothing new in it – it’s gone on as long as the sport and is no doubt the same in other sports and there are countless examples.

    [Reply]

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